MAC: Mines and Communities

Abuses common in Ghana gold mining - Report

Published by MAC on 2010-11-16
Source: Associated Press, Statement, and others (2010-11-01)

Foreign gold mining companies in Ghana regularly seize people's land, pollute the environment and violently suppress those who oppose them, according to a new report by a human rights team at the University of Texas School of Law.

Although the report concentrates on exposing the activities of AngloGold Ashanti and Goldfields, the most criticised operator over the past year has been Newmont. See: Newmont accused of "acts of intimidation and harassment" against community critics in Ghana

Last week, the company sought to address some of these complaints.

Abuses common in Ghana gold mining

By Artis Henderson

The Associated Press

1 November 2010

DAKAR, Senegal - Foreign mining companies in gold-rich Ghana regularly seize people's land, pollute the environment and violently suppress those who oppose them, according to a new report by a human rights team at the University of Texas School of Law.

Large mining companies in Ghana's west often take land from farmers without fair compensation, the report says. Ghanaian law requires compensation for loss of land and loss of crops. Many community members have not been reimbursed for either, according to Thursday's report from the law school's Human Rights Clinic.

Thomas Akabzaa, a professor of earth science at the University of Ghana who has studied Ghana's gold mining industry for the last 16 years, said the problem with land compensation often can be traced to local leaders.

"The land is traditionally held by the chiefs in trust for the people," Akabzaa said. "When the mining company takes the land, the compensation is paid to the chiefs."

This money, he said, often does not make its way to the landowners.

Akabzaa says problems also arise when the government undervalues a crop.

"Particularly if they're cash crops like cocoa, which has a life span of 20 years," Akabzaa said. "Landowners are given the value of one year's crop only."

The report also accuses gold-mining operations of polluting territory surrounding the mines. Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice produced a report in 2008 that confirmed mineral levels in local water sources were above World Health Organization limits. Community members reported incidents of contaminated drinking water and large-scale fish deaths.

Local landowners told investigators that attempts to protest the effects of gold mining have been met with violence by private and government security forces. Anthony Baidoo, a farmer in Teberebie, was shot after a confrontation at a roadblock with military and company officers working for AngloGold Ashanti, a South African mining firm.

A spokesman for AngloGold Ashanti said the gunshot was accidental and the company assumes no liability.

Nevertheless, AngloGold Ashanti has paid Baidoo's medical bills, financed his son's high school education, and is working out a compensation package.

A representative for Goldfields Ghana Limited, another South African mining operation cited in the report, said the company was unable to comment before studying the report.

Known as the Gold Coast under British colonial rule, Ghana is one of Africa's largest gold exporters. Global gold prices have recently reached record highs of more than $1,300 an ounce.

Philip Nichols, associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said the current appetite for gold is a reflection of uncertain global markets.

"There's no place to put your money right now," Nichols said. "People are looking to gold as a refuge."


The Cost of Gold: Mining Threatens Lives and Ruins Livelihoods in Ghana

University of Texas School of Law Press Release

28 October 2010

Ghanaians evicted from their land, accosted by the military, their water poisoned

Abena Koale, a 40-year-old Ghanaian farmer, had lived on her land almost her entire life. In 2000, she answered her door and was moved from her farm that very day by a representative of Goldfields Ghana Limited. Ms. Koale is just one of thousands of Ghanaian farmers whose land has been taken from them without adequate compensation. They have been forced to abandon their homes and find a new life.

The Human Rights Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law has uncovered and documented the circumstances Ghanaians living in the Tarkwa area in the Western Region Ghana must face on a daily basis.

The Clinic collaborated with the Center for Public Interest Law and the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) in its mission.

The Clinic went to Ghana in October of 2009, surveyed the Tarkwa area, and conducted interviews to produce a report, entitled The Cost of Gold: Communities Affected by Mining in the Tarkwa Region of Ghana, which was released today and available at http://www.utexas.edu/law/clinics/humanrights/.

The Ghanaian government allows mining companies to enter a given community with little input and no consent from the affected community. Any consultation and cooperation means very little to the local communities who are disadvantaged in negotiations and cannot adequately participate in the decision-making process.

Most importantly, Ghanaians are left without recourse when they are ignored. Many community members who have lost their property have been inadequately compensated, if at all. However, illegal eviction without adequate compensation is just a small component of the abuses in Ghana, the Clinic's report finds.

Mining companies frequently spill toxic waste and cyanide into rivers in Tarkwa. "Some people who mistakenly went swimming in the river had their skin peeled off," explained Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, director of WACAM, in the report, "Those who drank the polluted water and ate some of the fish are having serious stomach problems."

Joyce Oboako, at just eight months old, was a victim of the gold mining activities in the Prestea community. She fell off her bed as a result of a blasting technique used in mining. Her resulting head trauma left her with developmental problems. These blasts also produce cracks in homes and dust that lead to respiratory problems, skin rashes, and damaged crops. This is just part of the heavy cost of gold paid by Ghanaians.

The report concludes that mining companies are able to exploit Ghanaian communities due to their financial strength and ability to lobby chiefs, public servants, and government officials with no accountability. Therefore, those responsible for protecting Ghanaians' rights are left without any incentive to do so.

Local communities affected by mining suspect that chiefs and government officials receive illegal benefits from the mining companies. These benefits are not passed on to community members. In the report, Matthias, a local farmer, blames his chief for the loss of his land. However, outspoken community members are liable to be kicked out of their communities by their chiefs, so they often remain silent.

Tensions between exploited Ghanaians and mining companies are on the rise. Peaceful protests have lead to violent encounters between locals and the military sent to keep the peace at mining sites. Tear gas, beatings, and bullets have been unleashed on crowds of demonstrators.

In 2006, Anthony Baidoo, a victim of one of these clashes, was shot while fleeing open fire from the military which was acting on behalf of AngloGold Ashanti Limited. He is now partially-paralyzed. He explains, "I just don't have the strength and that means I don't have any money to buy food and look after my children." With no one on their side, defending their human rights, Ghanaians will continue to shoulder the oppressive cost of gold.

The Human Rights Clinic calls on the Ghanaian government to enforce existing laws that protect Ghanaians and change laws that allow mining companies to exploit them. As the mining continues in the Tarkwa area in the Western Region of Ghana, the quality of life for the Ghanaians in the local communities continues to worsen.

With the government taking little or no action against the mining companies, the Ghanaians in the Tarkwa area are left to fend for themselves. Considering the mining companies' financial strength and the government's complicity, this is an uphill battle.

CONTACT:
Ariel Dulitzky, 512.232.1256,

The Human Rights Clinic is part of the University of Texas School of Law. In the Clinic, an interdisciplinary group of law students and graduate students work under the supervision of Clinic Director Ariel Dulitzky, on human rights projects through fact finding, reporting and other public advocacy. The Clinic is involved in a multitude of activities including supporting advocacy in domestic and international fora; investigating and documenting human rights violations; and engaging with global and local human rights campaigns.


Newmont Ahafo Mine denies 'killing' residents

Citifmonline

11 November 2010

Mining giant Newmont Ghana gold limited insists it is conforming to international best practices despite recent complaints of deaths and various degrees of injuries at its Ahafo mine.

The mining giant was reacting to concerns raised by Wacam, a Human Rights and mining advocacy non-governmental organization, which has expressed worry about increasing deaths, accidents, injuries, and safety risks associated with the operations of Newmont's Ahafo mine.

According to WACAM, dams constructed by Newmont Ahafo mine have created unsafe economic and social problems for many communities.

They alleged that fifteen people have so far died by drowning in poorly constructed dams or knocked down by the company's vehicles.

But speaking to Citi Business, the Regional Communications Manager of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited Adiki Ayitevie said although many of the incidents did occur the activities of Newmont conform to international safety standards.

"We take this very serious and we are continuously looking for ways of improving our safety standards. So the damns have been built with safety in mind and they have been done in line with international environmental standards all in line the country's regulatory authority agencies. What we have also done with the dams is that we have posted relevant safety signs with security personnel to undertake awareness programmes" he said.

"There have been some incidents of drowning but most of this happens when people go there to fish and anytime it happens, our emergency response team works with the police to retrieve the bodies and work with the necessary organizations to ensure that we improve measures so that people do not have access to use it for fishing and swimming" he explained.

WACAM also says Boom Gates erected by the mining company stops all vehicular and human movement and causes the delay of vehicles conveying sick people referred from Gyedu Health Centre to Hwidiem Government Hospital on emergency through Kenyase.

But the Regional Communications Manager of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited says the boom gates were rather built to protect residents them from being hit by trucks.

"We have those boom gates as part of the safety measures that has been agreed with our regulatory authority and our own safety standards so that when the trucks are moving and people get there, they cannot cross. As far as I know, we haven't had people complaining about that. So those boom gates are there to ensure that we do not have any accidents or collisions amongst our trucks.

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