The story of mining can sometimes be told in distorted forms; emotionally hyped narratives sometimes project images of rabid environmental harm and pollution; local people protesting activities of mining companies, particularly, illegal miners receive generously distorted and sometimes overly exaggerated media coverage.
Yet, mining is no such evil all the time
At Akyem, a different narrative pertains; Positive mining is breaking long held myths of an industry with image sometimes battered by awkward and wild rumours.
In Akyem’s serene environment, mining is anchoring major community development projects; livelihoods have been transformed and indigenes have been economically empowered.
The story of Akyem is worth telling. Stripped of any flowery depictions, Akyem still holds an important promise. Perhaps ample testament that when regulatory systems work and ethical mining companies are given some good guarantees, mining presents a great future for the nation’s development.
In 2014, the Akyem Mines was adjudged the First Best Safe Mine in Ghana for 2014 by the Minerals Commission and the Ghana Chamber of Mines. That was probably not a surprise. At Akyem, a well-planned mining environment that enforces a stringent zero harm policy is a hallmark of the mining setting.
“If a task cannot be done safely, it will not be done,” Mr Oduro Marfo Kwarteng, External and Communications Affairs Manager at Akyem Mines emphasises. But beyond the workplace safety, Newmont has also encouraged safety in the community with stringent environmentally friendly policies.
A concurrent land reclamation policy has helped reclaim already mined lands even before the mine is brought to a closure. Additionally, under the aegis of the Forestry Commission, a reforestation policy of replacing in three-fold any forest destroyed by the mining activity is religiously being followed and large tracts of land have already been reclaimed quite impressively for a mine that is scheduled to face closure in 2025.
“Phase One of the reforestation project has been completed with about 60 hectares of trees replanted. The next stage of the reforestation project is set to commence at the Kwekaru Forest”, Mr Kwarteng said.
The quest for a strong and effective community development policy has led to the establishment of the New Akyem Development Foundation and (eventhough) while still at its nascent stages, the foundation has already been involved in landmark community development projects in Akyem.
The Newmont Akyem Development Foundation Agreement was signed in 2014 and so far, the foundation has accrued 12,773,086.02 as its income for 2014.
Executive Secretary for the foundation, Mr Apenu, said projects that had been planned by the foundation for the 2015 included;
Scholarships package for more than over 400 students
A teachers’ quarter
A health centre
A classroom block
Community road improvement for three communities
Two community libraries
Apprenticeship programme for more than 100 people
Micro-credit scheme for eight communities
Currently, the programme to provide scholarship packages has been rolled out. Ultimately, the foundation is expected to look beyond Newmont for funding as explained by its executive secretary, who also states that the foundation is entirely different from Newmont and registered as a separate entity from Newmont.
In the long term, the idea is to build an organisation that will function even when the mine is no more.
In Akyem, Newmont does acknowledge that its mining activities have resulted in the relocation of some people but that has been admirably dealt with helping to foster peaceful co-existence with the local people.
This has informed a comprehensive compensation package to help address the challenges facing the local people who have had to be relocated as a result of the company’s mining activities.
According to Mr Antwi, 249 households, including five teacher accommodation units had been provided to affected individuals and families. Three churches have been constructed in addition to a basic school, a community centre, soccer field as well as the tarring of the community’s road surface with bitumen.
There is also an ongoing process of providing indentures for individual plots.
On compensation payment, he explains that the total money paid as compensation could be broken down as follows;
Crops; US$26.3 million
Deprivation of land use; US$4.1 million dollars
Immovable property; US$1.6 million dollars
The company has also introduced livelihood improvement programmes, he said, and added that those programmes had contributed significantly towards improving living standards of the indigenes and also increased crop production to help guarantee food security in the communities
AILAP and LECDEP
Initiatives such as the Agricultural Improvement and Land Access Programme (AILAP) and Livelihood Enhancement and Community Development Programme (LECDEP) had contributed significantly towards improving livelihoods in the host community.
He said, for instance, under AILAP, farmers had been provided inputs such as seedlings and fertiliser to support their production; “Under the programme GH¢ 150 was given to a farmer for every acre acquired while GHC136 is given for farm maintenance for every acre,” adding that “since AILAP’s inception in 2011, 1923 farmers out 2022 in the database eligible for the programme support have been assisted to establish new farms”.
The programme, he said, was expected to end in the minor farming season of 2015.
According to him, the goal of the programme is to increase income and improve the quality of lives of Project Affected Households (PAHs) and Project Affected Communities (PACs) through key interventions.
At Akyem, Newmont has also implemented the Vulnerable People’s Programme which provides food assistance and access to health care and education
While there have been concerns over whether there is judicious use of the compensation offered to the local people, Mr Antwi assuaged any such fears; “The feedback is encouraging although there are a few concerns”, he said.