Madam Speaker, may I thank you for permitting me to contribute or support the Statement on the harm being inflicted by the mining companies on the environment.
Madam Speaker, the issue of cyanide poisoning so ably presented by Hon Gifty Kusi, when taken in a large context of chemical pollution, courtesy the mining companies, it is very, very frightening.
Madam Speaker, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is supposed to monitor levels of various chemicals in and around mining companies and inside shafts of mining companies. Madam Speaker, unfortunately for this House, the only report that we have looked at is the report of 2003. So this House does not even know the work being done by EPA in terms of monitoring. And even if you go to that report, there is a list of chemicals that are monitored by EPA. You have zinc, manganese, iron, copper, cadmium, lead and so on.
In a particular instance, when EPA monitored the levels of lead in one of the
mines, they recorded a level of 0.9 mm per litre. The permissible level of lead is 0.1 mm per litre. Madam Speaker, that means that the level of lead was nine times the permissible level; very, very dangerous. We do not know what became of the report and what measures were taken. Indeed, we do not even have any follow-up report on any of the mining companies as to what gets done when such levels are detected.
We know that lead is a very dangerous chemical and the levels, when not checked, will kill us slowly and this is the distinction between what we are learning about cyanide and elements like lead, mercury, which are slow-killing; they kill us, we do not notice. When cyanide kills you, it is detected almost instantaneously and that is the point which ought to be made, not only to the mining companies but to the public.
Madam Speaker, in 2006 the Minerals Commission i set up a team that looked at levels of Mercury which is an extracting chemical, and with respect to the galamsey boys and girls -- few girls, more boys. And what they did simply was to educate those who were using mercury for extracting purposes against the dangers of using this.
Now, beyond the 2006 Report, nothing has been heard from the Commission; they called that phase one, and whether or not there was phase two, nobody knows of that. How far that education went, nobody knows about that. In fact, Madam Speaker, these boys attempt to remove mercury from anywhere, including thermometers and this is because they need that chemical for extracting purposes. Have there been any replacements? We do not know about that. We know the harm that mercury does to those who handle this particular element.
Madam Speaker, we seem not to be taking the work of the EPA seriously. If you look at the 2010 Budget, the portion that talks about monitoring of activities of mining companies goes under extra- budgetary resource. And here, we have as
little as GH¢48,000,000.00 allocated for that purpose, and yet it is important that they carry out this function.
Madam Speaker, I would suggest that we put together resources from the Minerals Commission, from EPA, of course, the Ministry and other agencies that monitor activities of mining companies in coming out with resources that would support EPA in its activities.
Madam Speaker, let me repeat, we do not seem to take environmental issues in this country seriously, especially when we are dealing with things that gradually disturb our organic system and it is very serious. Cancer-causing agents are all over the place, nobody detects them. The work of EPA is being impeded because they do not have the resources and yet we sit here in this House to look for developmental projects and so on.
Madam Speaker, if we do not pay any attention to these matters, the development will come and meet corpses because we are all going to die. It is for this reason that this singular act by Newmont company ought to be condemned seriously. If we cannot have good monitoring system for levels of water and that spillages can simply occur, then we are in trouble.
Madam Speaker, I just want to end by
urging all of us to do whatever it takes to ensure that the monitoring agencies do their work and they do their work properly, otherwise, there would come a time when we are all going to get some of these chemicals detected in our systems and that time may be too late.
Madam Speaker, I thank you.