Health, Safety and Environmental Regulation in Ghana's Mining Sector
A draft version of the proposed national mining policy states that the Ghanaian Government’s objective is ‘to achieve a socially acceptable balance... between mining and the physical and human environment and to ensure that internationally accepted standards of health, mine safety and environmental protection are observed by all participants in the mining sector.’
Health and Safety Regulation
There is no national body or policy for general occupational safety standards in Ghana, however the Mining Regulations of 1970 provide a regulatory framework specifically for health and safety within the mining sector. Following the passage of the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act , the Inspectorate Division (ID) of the Minerals Commission was established and is now responsible for enforcing the Mining Regulations, 1970 (and its amendments). Thus the ID is tasked with ensuring health and safety in mining operations. The ID reviews proposed mining projects and, if it is satisfied with the health and safety measures in place, issues an operating permit. Without such a permit, a minerals licence holder cannot begin any mining-related activity. The ID also monitor mines to ensure compliance is ongoing.
The Ghana Chamber of Mines collaborates with the ID to form a Technical Committee on health and safety within the mining sector. Representatives from each mining operator within the nation work with this committee to review and recommend actions taken to address health and safety problems within the industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ministry responsible for the environment, works alongside the Forestry Commission and the Water Resources Commission to perform environmental regulation of the mining sector. The EPA processes environmental permits as part of the minerals licensing process. Regulation is laid out by the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act and the National Environmental Policy of Ghana, which is complemented by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490) and various other guidelines. Mineral licences are not granted to an applicant unless they have provided ‘a satisfactory programme of environmental protection measures and how these would be funded’.
The EPA also continues to monitor environmental aspects of all mining activities within Ghana. One of its major tools for monitoring mining is referred to as the AKOBEN audit. This audit evaluates environmental and social performance, and ranks mining companies accordingly. The EPA measures companies against their Environmental Impact Assessment scores, and discloses the results using a colour coded system of five layers, Red is the worst rating, indicating poor performance and ‘serious risk’ to the environment. Gold is the highest rating, indicating an excellent performance and a strong ‘commitment to social performance’.
Challenges Facing Health, Safety and Environmental Regulation
A mining sector report published by the World Bank’s Public Sector Reform and Capacity Building Unit for the African Region suggests that environmental problems are often associated with mines that pre-date 1990. Yet the social and environmental impact of mining is still being felt by communtities today, and human rights and environmental groups, such as Ghana’s Human Rights and Administrative Justice Committee, have denounced ongoing violations of human rights by mining companies. This evidence is corroborated by the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM). It has observed environmental problems such as the diversion of waterways, pollution, contamination and loss of biodiversity. The Ghanaian Chronicle claimed that the desire to keep regulations to a minimum to reduce the burden on investors has allowed health, safety and environmental regulation to be relegated to the background.
- "Draft National Mining Policy" The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (Mines Subsector), retrieved 12 February 2012.
- "Occupational and Industrial Safety and Health in Ghana" GhanaWeb, 22 November 2010.
- "A Report on Ghana’s mining sector for the 18th session of the UN Commission on sustainable development" UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, retrieved 12 February 2012.
- "Copy of The Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703)" Sustainable Development Strategies Group, retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Environmental Protection Agency: Mining" Environmental Protection Agency, retrieved 10 February 2012.
- "AKOBEN Audit" Environmental Protection Agency, retrieved 10 February 2012.
- "Political Economy of the Mining Sector in Ghana" World Bank, July 2011.
- "Protect Forest Reserves; "Keep Mining Companies Out in Ghana" " Mines and Communities 23 April 2003.
- "NCOM is Ten Years Old" NCOM Ghana, 10 November 2011.
- "Amend Mining Laws to Reflect ILO Convetion 176 - Mineworkers" Ghanaian Chronicle, retrieved 10 February 2012.