Participants after the workshop
Participants after the workshop

EPA consults gold mining stakeholders on social licence

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has organised a consultative workshop on the preparation of a social licence for stakeholders in the Artisanal Small- scale Gold Mining (ASGM) value chain in the Prestea Huni-Valley Municipality.

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A Social Licence in mining is an informal contract that gives a mining project the ongoing approval and acceptance of the local community and other stakeholders in society to conduct its activities in a sustainable manner.

The workshop, therefore, aimed at gathering insights and expertise from stakeholders to facilitate the development of a robust Social License Protocol (SPL) that aligns with the needs of the ASGM sector in the country.

It also formed part of the planetGOLD Ghana Project, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), to transform the ASGM sector by minimising the risks associated with mercury use in the ASGM sector.

Participants agreed that the issues discussed should be incorporated into the development of protocols for the social licence, while recommending that further engagements be organised in the other project districts for stakeholders.

The Project Coordinator, Lovelace Sarpong, said the initiative aimed to minimise the risks posed by mercury use in the ASGM sector by improving sound chemical management and eliminating pollution hazards while improving financial inclusion and transition to the formal economy.

He added that it also sought to strengthen national and jurisdictional capacity to enhance the country’s compliance with the Minamata Convention on Mercury - a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

“The project has four main components including optimising formalisation through Jurisdictional Approaches (JAs), accelerating financial inclusion and responsible supply chains, enhancing uptake of mercury-free technologies, and fostering knowledge sharing and local capacity building support,” Mr Sarpong explained. 

Mitigation measures

The Safeguard Officer on the Project, Isaac Owusu, noted the invaluable role mining played in the country’s development, stressing that about 13 out of the 16 regions were endowed with mineral deposits.

He, therefore, urged mining companies to ensure appropriate mitigation measures were put in place to address the negative impact associated with their operations because the  aftermath of mining activities transcended the boundaries of the mine. 

Mr Owusu further intimated that a social licence went beyond legal requirements and implied that the company was perceived as responsible, ethical, and respectful of the community’s values and expectations.

“Maintaining Social Licence to operate is a process and not an event, hence there should be continuous engagement and relationship-building with all the project-affected communities. Companies must have self-reflections of their attitude towards the stakeholders. If the company fails to gain social legitimacy, the stakeholders may rise against the project and reject it,” the Safeguard Officer explained. 

Advice

The Municipal Chief Executive of the Prestea Huni Valley Municipal Assembly, Isaac Dasmani, commended the project team for the engagement, stressing his municipality’s endowment of gold deposits.

He, however, lamented the challenges associated with mining operations and urged small-scale miners to support the project on the new approaches, including mercury-free interventions to ensure responsible mining in the municipality.

“Put into practice everything you learn from the workshops to help protect your health and the environment. I also want to encourage mining companies, both large and small-scale, to fulfil their corporate social responsibility to help develop the communities in which they operate,” he added.

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