Gold, Diamonds Straddling Poverty

President Nana Akufo-Addo

The President’s disdain for the poor state of mining communities in the country is a countrywide feeling. In spite of this impression over the years, little or nothing has been done to change the poor living conditions of those living in mining areas.

So neglected are these communities that it would appear there is a jinx about them which repels efforts at reversing their poor status. Otherwise why would locations from which the very expensive natural resources are extracted continue to post such miserable picture?

The big names in the extractive industry are active in such places yet there is little or nothing to show for it and the years run into hundreds.

The highly publicized Corporate Social Responsibility programmes are anything but enough to change the lives of the people some of who suffer from the fallouts of the activities of the mining companies in terms of health challenges.

Akwatia, Obuasi and others, big names on paper do not have anything worth pointing at as being the benefits of the extraction of the world-class minerals from their bowels.

Somebody quipped, rather cynically, that the famous Obuasi oranges have lost their sweetness which stood them apart from similar fruits from other producing areas in the country; they attribute this to the over-mining of the area.

For the superstitious, the poor state of mining areas is a standard feature of places where precious minerals are mined. Their belief is steeped in the fact that they have never seen a mining area with modern structures and the residents benefiting from the extractive activities of the large mining companies. Were they to have a glimpse of beautiful cities in South Africa and others where the proceeds from mining activities have been used to improve the standards of the sources of the minerals, they would have revised their stances.

We salute the President for his discourse on the poor state of mining areas when he delivered a speech during the 96th anniversary of the Ghana Chamber of Mines and demand that a national conversation be triggered on the subject. This way the issue can attract various shades of opinions and hence a common front can be opened on addressing the challenge.

The business as usual module should be replaced with a pragmatic approach so that residents of mineral bearing areas would benefit from the activities of those extracting the precious stuff from the ground.

It is actually unacceptable that after the extraction, which leaves the environment largely degraded, residents cannot boast of human-standard places of convenience let alone education for their children.

It is not too late to reverse the trend, especially since there are new concessions to be acquired. A new progressive legislation should be considered which would be supportive of the national interest and the individuals who reside in the areas under review.

The Ghana Chamber of Mines, at ninety six, should assess the aftermath of mining since the activity commenced in earnest in the country and consider whether or not the wealth from the sector is commensurate with what is visible on the ground vis a vis the standard of living of the people.