|Photo Credit: Ghana to Ghana|
On May 15, the National Union of Ghana Students launched the Ghanaian version of the International Student’s Day celebration. The guest speaker was Mr Kwesi Pratt Jnr who, in a lengthy address, asserted that the arsenic levels in the oranges grown in Obuasi are 10 times higher than WHO standards due to the mining activities. Like everyone else in the room, I was shocked. In order to retain my love for
those juicy oranges, I did a quick search on the internet to verify Comrade Pratt’s claims. Maybe I shouldn’t have, because I’ll never look at an orange that way again.
1. The acid content in potable water is higher than the EPA and WHO standards.
2. Arsenic levels in potable water are 10-38 times higher than EPA standards and 1800 times higher than WHO standards.
3. Mercury levels in oranges are 5 times higher than EPA standards and 26 times higher than WHO standards.
4. Arsenic levels in oranges are 24 times higher than EPA standards and 1226 times higher than in WHO standards.
Scary, isn’t it? With the astronomical level of these metals in our water and fruits, we certainly cannot be safe. The worst part of this phenomenon is that the country is not receiving the maximum benefits from our mining activities. Apart from the increase in the corporate tax of mining companies from 25%-35% in the 2012 budget, I felt the government was not doing enough to get the most out of our mining sector.
However, I saw a news item today in the Banking & Financial Times that made very happy. There are currently 2 bills before parliament. The bills, when passed into law, will establish a Minerals Development Fund and a local-content framework. If the MDF is passed, a Mining Community Development Scheme would be set up where royalty payments and development funds from mining companies will be paid. The funds will be used for infrastructural development in the mining communities. The local content framework will also ensure that a reasonable minimum percentage of Ghanaians are engaged in providing mining services.
The value of mining services procured by the mining companies in 2008, estimated by the Minerals Commission, was $680million. With the right regulations and laws in place, as well as capacity building, Ghanaians can provide these services.
I call on parliament to quickly pass these bills into law. I commend government for its steps and I hope that the next step is for it to try to regain the majority shares in our major mines.