|The whole of this mountain is iron ore|
The extractive sector particularly gold, iron ore, limestones, diamond mining among others, could be an important source of development for Northern Ghana. In spite of its potential to turn over huge revenue for development and job creation, mining communities continue to suffer from serious environmental cost associated with mineral extraction.
The wanton destruction of the environment, air and water pollution among others by mining companies has been a matter of concern to many right thinking citizens of this country in recent times culminating in the formation of an interministerial taskforce to deal with the situation.
While it has been reported over the years that the activities of some mining companies were having negative effects on the environment, the rate of destruction of such activities seemed to be on the ascendancy.
In view of this development, it is important for individuals, groups and organizations with interest in environmental management and sustainability to play an active role in helping stakeholders to ensure that Ghana’s environments were safe even as her mineral resources were exploited.
Against this background, the Media Advocates for Sustainable Environment (MASE) in partnership with the Rural Media Network (RUMENT) has taken steps to monitor mining activities at Sheini in the Tatale District of the Northern Region to ensure environmental sustainability and to prevent further depletion of the country’s ecological system.
Thus, one important issue currently being monitored by MASE is the Sheini iron ore that was discovered in the 1960s and drilling and exploration conducted between 1961 and 1965 by Soviet Geologists covering a very large area of the eastern part of the Northern Region.
That exploration test confirmed that, the Sheini iron ore deposit was the largest, finest and in commercial quantity in the whole of Africa. Other geological surveys had shown that Sheini ironstones react extremely well to a magnetizing reduction roast process, which reduces iron in the form of hematite (Fe2O3) to magnetite (Fe3O4) and ultimately to metallic iron (Feo) and that its quality was uncomparable while its quantity could be extracted continuouly for 100 years.
At a press briefing in Tamale, MASE disclosed that information received from sources within Ghana’s Minerals Commission indicated, that the Sheini Iorn Concession had been given out to a joint-venture company through a process that was concealed because there was no wide consultation.
According to the group, it appeared therefore, that the government had given out the only northern strategic asset without the full involvement of chiefs, communities and stakeholders whose livelihoods would directly or indirectly be affected.
“This is a cause for concern realizing the imapct of mining on the environment. The failure by the government to let communities, and the general public know, understand and exercise their democratic rights including their right to “free prior informed consent”, compensations and resettlement if any, and the right to prevent conflict arising from the development of the concession are disturbing”, MASE Spokesperson Npong Balikawu lamented.
MASE called on the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Minerals Commission and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation to tell the people of the Northern Region whether the Sheini Iron Ore deposit had been given out as a concession to a company or not.
It also wanted to know the name of the company, who the managers were and how the selection process was done, stressing “We also want to know what arrangements have been made in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mitigate any environmental degradation that may occur”.
MASE hinted that a time bomb was waiting to explode in the area if issues relating to Sheini iron ore were not handled transparently and in consultation with the various stakeholders.
The Media Advocates for Sustainable Environment is a network of environmental journalists formed in 2009 under the auspices of the Rural Media Network and the KASA environmental governance project. The core membership of MASE are environmental reporters and advocates.
MASE members work to promote best environmental practices for development and also educate people on best sanitation and agricultural practices and climate change issues.