The cumulative evidence of increasing human vulnerability to environmental change calls for a significant policy response and action on several fronts. At least since the 1960s, when environmental politics became institutionalised within western developed countries, scientists, interest groups, the media and local protests have been significant in shaping the development definition and resolution of environmental issues. Of recent, there has been a shift in focus of environmental policies from centralization to decentralization. The onset of conditions that give rise to threats and vulnerability can often be gradual or inconspicuous. The paper examines the transition period in participatory environmental governance in Ghana with a focus on surface mining of gold and the extent of the involvement of the affected communities in mining. Particular reference was drawn from the experience of communities in the Asutifi district where surface mining of gold is on a progressive ascendancy. Field data as well as available literature were reviewed. It was resolved that there are various levels of consultancy and public participation in the operations of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) in the Asutifi district. Communities are violently reacting to inefficient participation as a result of the ‘masses’ being considered as inappropriate for ‘insider’ roles in mining. More so, the findings proved that Ghana has gradually moved from a state of near stifling of community participation to the phase where it makes affected communities key participants in the achievement of social and economic development. Public participation is a key to socio-economic development and effective environmental growth. Mining companies should realise and work with communities and note that the protection of the environment would not necessarily bring economic cost. The government should also empower and mandate communities, whilst their resources are being used for wealth generation, to negotiate their benefits and challenges with mining companies. Mining companies should also desist from the idea of using intimidation and legal frameworks to restrict community empowerment and desire to fight for their share of the economic ‘cake’.
Key words: Public participation, decentralization, transitions, mining, environmental protection.
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