The Ghana Chamber of Mines has called on the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI) to liaise with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) to expedite action to resolve the long standing conflicting roles between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Inspectorate Division of the Minerals Commission (IDMC), the two main regulatory bodies for the mining industry.
It said, directives from these two agencies did not always converge, a phenomenon which made compliance difficult for companies.
The President of the chamber, Mr Kwame Addo-Kuffuor, made this call when the chamber paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Frimpong Boateng.
He said the implications of the overlapping roles of these two bodies did not only result in incongruence but avoidable additional costs.
In order to pre-empt such outcomes in 2016, he said the chamber liaised with the two ministries in an attempt to resolve the situation.
“A committee comprising representatives from the MLNR, MESTI, EPA and the chamber was set up to identify the conflicting areas of regulation and propose remedial measures,” he stated.
“Whiles some progress has been made, the chamber is still calling on the two ministries to have this issue resolved once and for all,” he added.
Delays in permit tracking system
The provisions of the environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652) empowers the EPA to process applications, evaluate Environmental Impact Assessment, conduct public hearings and if mitigation measures for potential impacts are found to be adequate, grant the necessary permits to mining companies.
In spite of the timelines enshrined in the legislation for the approval of the permits, Mr Addo-Kuffuor said there was inordinate delays in the issuance of permits on critical mining projects.
To address this, he said the chamber was collaborating with the EPA to fix the issues associated with obtaining environmental permits.
He said they, therefore, introduced a permit application tracking system which was transparent with clear timelines and accessible by all to review the status of application without much difficulty.
“It is, therefore, our expectation that the implementation of the tracking system will improve the process of permitting and in particular shorten the lead time between the submission of permit applications and their consideration, and issues of permits by the EPA,” he noted.
He said this would ensure that mining companies not only concentrate on their core productive goals but also use a system that provided predictability to the permitting process, which would make Ghana a competitive destination for investment.
He believed this would ultimately help unlock the necessary investments for the development and expansion of the mining industry.
The President of the chamber also pointed out that it would continue to collaborate with policy makers and agencies to come out with alternative sources of energy that would not impact the environment negatively.
He said mining was energy intensive and all energy sources had some form of impact on the environment.
Studies have shown that fossil fuels-coal and oil- do substantially more harm than renewable energy sources by most measures, including air and water pollution, damage to public health, wildlife and habitat loss, water use, land use and emissions contributing to global warming.
In this regard, Mr Addo-Kuffuor said the chamber and its members were committed to maintaining the required standards of environmental stewardship in mining.
He said the chamber was, therefore, collaborating with the National Petroleum Authority to pilot the use of low sulphur diesel in the mining industry.
“In recent times, the producing member companies have also been dialoging with the Energy Commission and the Volta River Authority on how to incorporate renewable energy into their energy mix as required by LI 1937,” he said.