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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
'The days of taking our ore are gone'
The Ghanaian government wants the Okyenhene (tribal king) of eastern Ghana's Akyem Abuakwa region to grant land access to mining companies interested in exploiting huge deposits of bauxite - the raw material used to produce aluminium.

The Okyenhene told the BBC's Claire Gilderson why he's in no hurry to sacrifice the Atiwa rain forest and will wait for the highest bidder who can prove that profit is not their only concern.

The Okyenhene (tribal king) of Akyem Abuakwa in eastern Ghana
The Okyenhene is a staunch environmentalist
Formerly known as the Gold Coast, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Ghana is a prosperous country with a strong economy.

Exploitation from mining multinationals has attributed to our lack of development. Obuasi and Tarkwa in the south-west are rich in gold yet poor infrastructure, bad roads, lack of sanitation and poverty are prevalent in these areas.

These multinationals promise opportunity for development, but where is the evidence?

Mining companies have also damaged our environment and neglected our communities. Water bodies have been polluted and forests have been destroyed.

Livelihood

The Atiwa rain forest in my kingdom is approximately 43km squared. It's a substantial part of our livelihood and helps generate rainfall for the farmers.

Man walking along a road
The local community in Kyebi is clearly in need of development

Cutting down these trees in exchange for surface mining would be disastrous.

We are not prepared to fell trees for economic short term sustainability. There has to be long term sustainable programmes in place.

People have also been displaced and neglected. Many communities end up more impoverished after the mining companies leave, than before they arrived.

The promise of jobs equates to unskilled labour and the workers are left with no tools, no skills and no training.

Ownership

They are not able to apply for decent jobs and have nothing to fall back on when the multinationals leave.

I am not against mining if the ore and the production process are owned by our people.

Unfortunately in the past we have been quick to sign inequitable contracts in the hope of eradicating poverty.

Contracts must stipulate healthcare for the workers, decent housing, better pay, more benefits, training, care for the environment and social responsibility.

Intolerance

We have to make laws to protect our people and our land. As traditional leaders we must negotiate hard and bargain from a position of strength in future.

Village
The land beneath the rain forest is rich in aluminium ore

The days of taking our ore are gone.

Canada or Australia do not tolerate such inequity, neither will we.

This is the 21st Century and we have a responsibility to future generations to turn the minerals that God has blessed us with into symbols of wealth and development such as schools, hospitals, universities, decent roads, infrastructure and respectable jobs which will transform lives and raise standards of living.

Ghana needs to take a cue from South Africa - in Johannesburg you can visibly see what has been done with their gold.

We need to hold onto our property and wait for the highest bidder who is someone that not only cares about their profit but also cares about our people.


The BBC's Africa Have Your Say radio programme is debating how mining communities can prosper from the minerals beneath their feet, on Tuesday 18 July at 1600 GMT. If you would like to take part send your views and experiences by clicking on the link below. Or you can send an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08.




SEE ALSO
Is mining destroying your life?
17 Jul 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Ghana
23 Jun 06 |  Country profiles
Ghana's gold dilemma
04 Feb 03 |  Africa
Cameroon demands bushmeat action
15 Dec 03 |  Science/Nature



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