But why did the Mineral C’ssion ever think
of granting mineral rights to any company?
Story: Kwabena DOKYI, ACCRA
IF the Omanhen of the Effutu Traditional Area, in the Central Region, Neenyi Ghartey VII, and the Effutu people had not resisted attempts by the Minerals Commission to grant an application to mine in the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site, the globally significant ecological area would have been on its way to destruction.
Interestingly news of the attempt to mortgage the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site came to the fore, just after ECOWATCH’s story on the steady destruction and extinction of the country’s wetlands, including the Sakumo Ramsar Site.
Apart from being an ecologically significant wetland area, hence its designation as a Ramsar Site by the government in August 1992, alongside the Densu Delta, Songor (Greater Accra Region), and Keta (Volta Region) lagoons, the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site also represents a cultural heritage for the Effutus at Winneba in the Central Region.
The annual Aboakyer Festival still takes place after so many years, because the Ramsar Site, which is home to several species of flora and fauna, has been left intact.
The Effutu Traditional Council in 1965 settled on the first Saturday of May every year as the date for the celebration of one of Ghana’s most popular traditional festivals – Aboakyer, upon the advice and pressure from the national tourism authorities, and it has been held since then, until the COVID-19 outbreak brought about a two-year suspension.
A proposed agreement said the Minerals Commission of Ghana was looking to grant mineral rights to Green Metals Resources Limited, so that the company could conduct large-scale mining of lithium and other natural resources in accordance with L.I. 2176 (Minerals and Mining (Licensing) Regulations 2012).
According to the site plan accompanying the document, which was published by environmental website, GhEnvironment.com, the area earmarked for mining by Green Metals Resources Limited, was 6.93sq.km. at Bewadze in the Gomoa West and Effutu districts of the Central Region.
Granting of the pending license meant that, the world-renowned traditional hunting ground and Effutu Aboakyer Festival will be affected, including the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site, as well as the Yenku forest.
In a swift action in response to the publication of the pending application by the Minerals Commission, the Efutu Traditional Council rejected any mining plans in the area.
A petition by the traditional council questioned why a public notice would be concealed from public view and not serve the purpose it was intended for.
Although the plan of the area designated for the mining activity is dated August 11, 2021, while the notice was published by the Minerals Commission on May 19, 2022, the traditional council said it was only on Friday, June 17, 2022, that it saw a copy of the document at the office of the municipal chief executive, where it had been posted on its notice board.
In the petition to the Minerals Commission, the traditional council said, “We in the Effutu Traditional Area object to this proposed license application and hereby petition your office to stop working on the document.”
It also read in part, “The area concerned if decimated by mining will completely bring to a halt the famous traditional festival on the African continent and the world over, the Aboakyer festival. If the application should succeed, it will deprive the indigenous people of Effutu and its environs their livelihood, since it will have a negative impact on the Muni Lagoon and the Ramsar site at large.”
The petition added that “The area if decimated will also bring about the complete collapse of the agreement the government of Ghana has entered with the Ramsar Convention.”
The Effutu Traditional Council, therefore, urged the Minerals Commission to halt any further development of the application or it would be obliged to seek redress in any form appropriate.
A gazette published by the Minerals Commission in accordance with regulations 10(3), 94(3), 177(3), 207(3) of the Minerals and Mining (Licensing) Regulations, 2012 (LI 2176) on May 19, 2022, requested a land owner or lawful occupier, who is likely to be affected by the grant of the mineral right, to submit a written statement of that land owner’s or occupier’s interest to the commission, through the respective assembly within 21 days from the date of publication of the gazette.
However, Neenyi Ghartey said the council was unaware of the arrangement in question and that it would have been suitable if they had addressed the traditional council and other relevant parties.
“We are not even aware of the said company or any form of agreement on what is going on, we only chanced on the publication giving 21 days’ ultimatum to reach out,” he stated.
Reacting to the Mineral Commission’s plan to offer part of the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site for mining on environmental news portal, ghenvironment.com, a reader, Adwoa Sey, said “It seems wrong that the Aboakyer Festival, the Effutu peoples’ livelihood and the terrain in the area should be sacrificed because of a private mining concession!!”
Another reader, Gyataba, said, “Minerals Commission should stop the application ASAP because the Effutu people will not sit and watch any private companies take us for a ride. They don’t even regard our tradition; commission, pen it off else you will see the difference of the youth.”
For his part, Nana Asante said “Let’s support the Effutu Traditional Council in their bid to protect the Cultural and Natural Heritage of the area. Surely the recent floods have taught everyone about the importance of preserving our wetlands and natural environment.”
Another reader, who only gave his name as Yaw, asked, “So what at all do we want to achieve with this exploitation? It was Achimota forest and now Ramsar site. It’s a shame though. Stop it, Minerals Commission.”
Nii Darko, however, said, “The attempt to conceal the notice indicates an attempt to push through something that was known to be against the national interest and against the interest of the local community. Why do we do this to ourselves?”
Land Use policy
Ironically though, in the preamble to the National Land Use Policy formulated in 1999 and signed by then Minister of Lands and Forestry, Dr Christina Amoako-Nuamah, the government states that it “will lead by example and is committed to move forward national and international efforts in wetland management through the demonstration of best practice and the provision of expertise.”
Titled “Managing Ghana’s Wetlands: A National Wetlands Conservation Strategy”, and put together by the Ministry of Lands and Forestry in 1999, the document states;
“The Government of Ghana recognises the importance of wetlands as habitat for wildlife, in the maintenance of the water table, mitigation of flood conditions and water purification. Wetlands resources are also known to be of socio-economic importance and have been harvested for construction poles, fuel-wood, timber for furniture and craft work.
“Furthermore, wetlands are of importance as fishing, hunting and grazing areas, and play an important role in crop production and domestic water supply. To ensure the judicious use of the nation’s land and all its natural resources, the Ministry of Lands and Forestry launched the National Land Policy in June 1999.
The policy recognises wetlands as environmental conservation areas and precludes the following practices:
· physical draining of wetland water;
· draining of streams and water courses feeding the wetlands;
· human settlements and their related infrastructural developments in wetlands
· disposal of solid waste and effluents in wetlands,
· mining in wetlands.
As a follow up to the petition issued to the Minerals Commission on the intended mining of Muni-Pomadze, a press conference was held in Winneba on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at which the Omanhen, Neenyi Ghartey, reiterated that the proposed mining prospecting at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site would have a negative impact on the region at large and the people, more than it would benefit them, and that the government should heed calls to urgently halt the mining activities.
“The decision has been fiercely opposed by the populace and the Effutu Traditional Council due to the negative effects that the aforementioned mining activities would have on the local economy and historical legacy.
“That particular space they want is home to unique plant and animal species and it is equally significant to the chiefs and residents of Effutu as a socio-cultural heritage and as a representation of the Effutu state, and we cannot allow them to destroy a place that contributes a great deal to climate adaptation and resilience,” he stated.
The Omanhen said that despite the many petitions to the relevant quarters regarding the proposed mining operations, the traditional council was still not receiving the needed attention, hence their decision to oppose any efforts to open the area to mining.
“The indigenous people of Effutu and its surrounding areas will lose their means of subsistence if this proposal is approved, since it will negatively affect the Muni Lagoon and the Ramsar Site as a whole and we will use all available means possible to stop it,” he repeated.
Following the repeated calls from the Effutu Traditional Council for the Minerals Commission to rescind its decision to grant mining rights to Green Metals Resources Limited to mine lithium at the Yenku forest reserve and the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site at Winneba in the Central Region, the commission said it will not recommend the grant of any mineral right to Green Metals.
A statement dated July 8, 2022 and signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Martin Ayisi, stated; “It is important to state that, under the mining laws of Ghana, the chiefs and the communities must be consulted before any mineral rights can be recommended by the commission and same granted for any mineral activity or operation to take place in any area in Ghana.
“Green Metals Resource Limited (Green metals) did apply for a mineral right in the area but the Commission has not recommended the grant of any mineral right nor has the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources granted any mineral right or lease to the company or to any company to explore or mine any mineral in the area in question.
“The Commission has requested a meeting with the Omanhen, the traditional council, the municipal assembly and the Asafo groups to discuss the procedures in the acquisition of the mineral right in Ghana and explain that nothing of that sort had been done.”
Meanwhile, the Convenor of the Ghana Environmental Advocay Group, Elizabeth Allua Vaah, has commended the chiefs and people of the Effutu Traditional Area for discouraging mining activities on their land, describing it as positive.