Trouble in Ghana’s gold fields

 

Ghana gold mine. Photo: EITI

Last week there were news reports of a standoff between the Yayaso community and personnel of the Ghana Police Service. The incident was triggered by the refusal of the community to move out of their ancestral homes to make way for Newmont Gold Ghana Limited to begin their Akyem Project. Under the watchful eyes of the Chief of Adausena, Nana Boni Abankro, Newmont Gold Ghana Limited was in the process of relocating the cemetery at Yayaso to a resettlement camp at Adausena when the people objected to the relocation. The said cemetery includes the Royal Mausoleum where past chiefs of the community have been laid to rest.

Ghana’s gold mining history is not a pretty one: exploitation, pillage and pollution are the trademarks of an industry that has brought great wealth to a few while wreaking havoc on local communities and ecosystems.

Gold is the precedent that made civil society nervous about the arrival of oil. From contract negotiations, to community relations and environmental oversight, the gold industry in Ghana is a case study for how not to do things. The troubles are far from over, as the statement from the Centre for Social Impact Studies posted below, indicates.

RESPECT RIGHTS OF MINING COMMUNITIES!

For sometime now, some residents of the Yayaso community have refused to relocate to a new resettlement camp at Adausena because Newmont had not fully complied with provisions of Article 20 (3) of the 1992 Constitution which requires that persons are resettled on suitable alternative land with due regard to their socio-cultural and economic circumstances. Furthermore, the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703 also specifies that the holder of a mining lease should pay adequate, prompt and fair compensation for affected property before beginning operations. Clearly, Newmont has failed to comply with the provisions of the law, and that makes the forceful eviction of the Yayaso community ultra vires.

It is important to note that though Newmont got the license to undertake its Akyem project in early 2009, the company has found it difficult to acquire the needed social license that could make its operations easier. This situation has arisen because it has refused to genuinely engage with affected communities in finding solutions to the social problems that its operations will bring to the people. Of particular significance is the company’s decision to mine in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve, one of a few remaining pristine forests of Ghana.

The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS) wishes to express its solidarity with the people of Yayaso in their struggles against unlawful eviction from their ancestral homes. By standing up to the Police and Newmont, residents of this small community have breathed fresh meaning into a line in our national anthem that reads “. . . and help us to resist oppressors’ rule with all our will and might forever more”. We find it despicable and horrendous that a foreign multinational mining company will dare touch one of the most sacred symbols of our traditions and customs – a cemetery.  In undertaking such a despicable act, the operators of Newmont have gone beyond the bounds of decency to insult our traditions and customs. How can a multinational mining company come to this country and desecrate a community’s Royal Mausoleum? Of more concern is that the one supervising this abomination is Nana Abankro, a traditional leader who should have known the consequences of disturbing the resting place of our ancestors. Can the American officials of Newmont have the temerity and impudence to mine the Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia should it be proven to contain gold? This show of contempt for the cultural sensibilities of our people must stop!

We further wish to unreservedly condemn this latest act of Police brutality against residents of a mining community. It is unacceptable for security agencies, paid by the tax payer, to unleash such terror on innocent residents of a poor community who are only seeking to protect their heritage. How Police personnel, heavily armed to the teeth should storm a small community and terrorise defenceless residents gives cause for concern and raises frightening images of Newmont’s track record in human rights abuses in other parts of the world. In Peru and Indonesia where the mining conglomerate operates, it has been accused of masterminding the abductions and killings of activists who opposed their operations. Even here in Ghana, we recall Newmont’s role in getting some activists of the advocacy organisation, Wacam and an Oxfam America official arrested for allegedly holding a meeting in the name of the company. This show of impunity and contempt for rule of law must stop. We cannot continue to mortgage the safety and security of our people on the altar of irresponsible foreign investment.

Government should take urgent steps to internalise the ECOWAS Directives on Mining Policy which upholds the right of community people free, prior and informed consent in any extraction of minerals. This will be consistent with the good governance principles that the country is living by.

We finally call on government to immediately suspend the mining license granted to Newmont until the company modifies its design to mine away from the Ajenua Forest Reserve and the Royal Mausoleum. Government should stop the policy contradiction where in one breath it invests money in rehabilitating the countries dwindling forest resources and in another, grants licenses to mining companies to further rape the forest. A more genuine and concerted action on the part of government to save the country’s remaining forest reserves can enable us to reverse the climate change phenomenon that is staring us in the face.

Signed:

CLEMENT KAKU ASIEDU MENLAH

(Director of Research and Advocacy, Centre for Social Impact Studies, Ghana)

For more information, kindly contact the following:

Mr. Frank Bannor (Senior Research Officer) Tel: 0246 416382

Mr. Stephen Yeboah (Senior Research Officer) Tel: 0271 103318

Mr. Prince Aboagye (Community Relations Officer) Tel: 0249 775522

 

 

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