It has emerged that metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) are not effectively applying funds allocated to them to mitigate the harmful effects of mining.
This is at a time when the government has intensified its efforts to flush out illegal miners from mining communities because of the harm they are causing the environment.
Besides, the MMDAs are not carrying out mandatory studies to identify the harmful effects of mining nor applying the funds received solely to projects intended to mitigate the harmful effects of mining.
Furthermore, they do not operate a separate account for the Mining Development Fund (MDF), instead treating the MDF as internally generated fund (IGF).
A performance audit report of the Auditor General on “Utilisation of mining development fund by metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies” showed that out of the GH¢6.74 million received by three assemblies from 2004 to 2009, only GH¢0.96 million (14.2 per cent) was spent on health, water, sanitation and waste management, land degradation and alternative sources of livelihood, areas directly affected by mining activities.
The audit was conducted in October, 2010, covering the period 2004 to 2009, and focused on the use of the MDF disbursed by the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL) to MMDAs in the mining areas.
Ghana News Headlines
For latest news in Ghana, visit Graphic Online news headlines page Ghana news page
The study was limited to mining areas in the Western and Ashanti regions, namely, the Tarkwa-Nsuaem municipality and the Prestea-Huni Valley District in the Western Region and the Obuasi municipality in the Ashanti Region.
The MDF was established in 1993, by an executive fiat mainly for the recycling of mining revenue for communities which host mining operations to undertake development projects to mitigate the effects of mining on the environment, among other things.
But 17 years down the line, and with an accumulated GH¢35.3 million in its coffers, the fund is not being used by the assemblies as expected.
Ghana’s mining industry, just like elsewhere, leaves behind trails of destruction. Mining activities create environmental and health concerns in the communities where the operations take place.
Tracts of land are degraded, arable land is taken over by mining concessions and farms which the people depend on for their livelihood are destroyed.
The use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide also pollutes the air, water and soil in those areas, resulting in a health hazard and also destroying farms lands.
Apart from the chemicals destroying the environment, the blasting of rocks creates dust clouds which, when inhaled, causes respiratory problems, with the pits created ending up as receptacles for stagnant water which becomes breeding grounds for mosquitoes and contributing to the high prevalence of malaria in mining areas.
It is these ills that the MDF was meant to correct but the Auditor General’s report said the funds were diverted into other projects.
Even though the assemblies had planned for some mitigation projects, their implementation is almost zero.
For instance, the Obuasi Municipal Assembly planned to revive two polluted water bodies (River Kunka and River Akaporiso) by planting trees around them at a cost of GH¢4,000 and ensure 100 per cent access to potable water at a cost of GH¢500,000.
The Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly planned to construct a small town water system district-wide at a cost of GH¢200,000 to improve safe drinking water supply to the communities and also train 100 farmers in grasscutter and snail rearing and piggery skills to support its alternative livelihood programme.
But at the time of the audit in 2010, none of those projects had been implemented.
At the Prestea-Huni Valley District Assembly, a programme to support sustainable land management to reduce and reclaim degraded land never materialised.
Interestingly, some of the projects the funds were diverted into included the purchase of vehicles to support revenue mobilisation, the construction and renovation of residential facilities for municipal chief executives and staff of the assemblies, the repair of intercom systems, the construction of entrance archs and the refurbishment of a Goil filling station.
Among other things, the report recommended that the MMDAs “initiate development projects to mitigate the harmful effects of mining in their areas. To achieve this goal, the MMDAs must identify the effects of mining, develop and implement strategies to mitigate them”.
“We expected the MMDAs which are recipients of the MDF to carry out studies to identify the harmful effects of mining and, based on the studies, develop and implement projects that will mitigate the harmful effects,” it said.
By Seth J. Bokpe/Daily Graphic/Ghana