Ghana: Newmont told to stop abusing community rights
One of the world's biggest gold producers, US-based Newmont, wants to expel an Indigenous Ghanaian community from its fertile land, and dump wastes in a royal mausoleum and among ancestral graves. See: Newmont found guilty of major cyanide spill
Declares Opanin Boahene, a local farmer:
"Now they say we should leave our town and settle in another community. We have nothing to eat. They have destroyed our farms. What are we going to feed on in another community?
"We are not moving. Some of us are prepared to die in our own homes than to become destitute in another community" .
Meanwhile, although Newmont has denied exhuming or relocating any mausoleum or culturally significant sites, it still intends to go ahead with the removals.
The company claims that: "[O]n the issue of culturally revered sites and royal mausoleum, a committee of traditional leaders...is holding meetings to decide on the best traditional and culturally acceptable method to manage these sites".
Stop Abusing Mining Community Rights!
Centre for Social Impact Studies Press Release
31 July 2011
A little over a week ago, 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 Kodi 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.
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, Section 74 (2) of 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 unlawful.
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 that has been certified to be home to rare species of fauna.
The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), a research and advocacy non-governmental organisation dedicated to using the findings of research to promote the interests of marginalised groups, 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 an irresponsible 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 poor community people on the altar of irresponsible foreign investment.
Newmont, a major client of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, must pursue performance standards as specified by IFC's Policy and Performance Standards. The company must adhere specifically to Performance Standard 4 (Community Health, Safety and Security), Performance Standard 5 (Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement) and Performance Standard 8 (Cultural Heritage) in its mining operations in the country.
The Government should take urgent steps to internalise the ECOWAS Directives on Mining Policy which upholds the right of community people to 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 country's 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.
CLEMENT KAKU ASIEDU MENLAH
(Director of Research and Advocacy)
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
We Don't Have Anything to Eat
Community facing evacuation on orders of Newmont, pleads for government intervention
3 August 2011
At 80 years, Opanin Kwadwo Boahene, Oman Abusuapanin of Yayaso in the Birim District of the Eastern Region, has seen it all. Since Newmont broached the idea of exhuming royal and ancestral corpses in order to bury mineral waste in the royal mausoleum and ancestral groves, he had known no sleep.
"All night, I stay awake. I cannot believe what I am hearing. They want us to remove our souls so they could put the effect of the degradation of our soils in their place. It is agonising. We cannot accept this supreme sacrifice for a pittance they are offering," Abusuapanin Boahene told The Chronicle on cellular phone, his voice visibly shaking.
To add insult to injury, Newmont has destroyed cocoa farms that feed the community. According to Opanin Boahene, most people have had their farms bulldozed. "Maame Akosua Apedua and James Nkansah were going to harvest their cocoa. When they arrived in their various farms, bulldozers were at work. Their entire livelihood had gone. It took a lot of counseling to get them regain their health," the Abusuapanin lamented.
Since then, 14 cocoa farmers have had their cocoa farms destroyed, according to the Abusuapanin. "Now they say we should leave our town and settle in another community. We have nothing to eat. They have destroyed our farms. What are we going to feed on in another community? We are not moving. Some of us are prepared to die in our own homes than to become destitute in another community," Opanin Boahene said, calling on the government to come to their aid.
Meanwhile, The Chronicle can report that the youth of Yayaso have turned themselves into vigilantes keeping guard over the royal mausoleum, the Yayaso Town Cemetery, and other ancestral groves.
"We are positioned at the cemetery to ensure that no one sneaks in to exhume our royals and other dead bodies, or desecrate the resting places of our ancestors," Mr. John Appenteng, one of the youth keeping guard over the resting place of the their ancestors, told The Chronicle.
In Accra, External Affairs and Communications Director of Newmont, Adiki Ofeibea Ayitevie, described the new development as unfortunate. He said Newmont had involved the local community in all negotiations, and that as a company that takes its social responsibility seriously, the multi-national company had met all its responsibilities in connection with the evacuation of the people of Yayaso.
"We have worked out a compensation package for the community. We have reached an agreement under the Agriculture Improvement and Land Access Programme Agreement with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, under which Newmont would pay for land for the potential evacuees in their new settlement community for farming purposes, with extension service technicians providing the technical know-how to improve on their yields.
"Currently, the scheme operates in our mining communities in the Brong Ahafo Region. We are going to do the same in the Akyem Area. We want to help the people in both food and cash crops," Ofeibea assured.
She said Yayaso community elders and opinion leaders were involved in all the negotiations. "It took the negotiation team nine months to work out fitting compensation packages in line with the country's laws and Newmont's social responsibility code to work out everything."
The External Affairs and Communications Director said the Land Administration and an expert from the School of Land Economy, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, were involved in working out the evacuation plan, resettlement, and their compensation packages.
"We have never sold our host communities short," Adiki Ayitevie stated.
Yesterday, The Chronicle reported the story of a stand-off between Newmont and the people of Yayaso following the decision by the gold mining company to exhume the mortal remains at the royal mausoleum and other ancestral groves in the town to pave the way for the company to deposit mineral waste in their place.
The Yayaso town residents are also required to evacuate the town to Adeesina, a town two miles down the road, as part of the deal. But the residents have refused to leave.
In a petition to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, dated December 5, 2010, the residents of Yayaso complained of the destruction of their heritage sites, including the royal mausoleum, public cemetery, and other sacred sites, and invited the Ministry to intervene.
Newmont reaffirms its commitment to respecting the culture of its host communities
Ghana News Agency (GNA)
5 August 2011
Newmont Golden Ridge (Newmont Ghana) said on Friday that it would continue to respect and work with traditional authorities to follow accepted cultural practices in handling cemeteries located in the Yayaaso community.
A statement Newmont issued on Friday said the company had not exhumed or relocated any mausoleum or culturally significant sites.
The statement said on the issue of culturally revered sites and royal mausoleum, a committee of traditional leaders from both Yayaaso and Adausena is holding meetings to decide on the best traditional and culturally acceptable method to manage these sites.
The committee has advised the company that they would provide the requirements for managing the issue, together with a roadmap of activities to be undertaken.
The statement said as a company that respects the norms and traditions of its host communities and strives to be the most valued and respected mining company Newmont would be guided by the final decisions of the traditional authorities and the community representatives.
"Newmont Ghana will continue to transparently and collaboratively engage with its host communities with honesty, trust and respect," Newmont's statement said.
The statement quoted Mr Randy Barnes, Newmont Ghana's Regional Vice President for Environment and Social Responsibility, as having said Newmont was respectful of the sensitivities surrounding sacred places and the communities' relationships with their ancestors and would not interfere in these cultural matters.
He said the company would continue to consult traditional and opinion leaders, elders and other stakeholders in its surrounding communities in all matters that affect them and would work with them in a collaborative manner to implement collectively-agreed upon decisions.
Mr. Barnes said in line with the company's usual practice of transparency and engaging and seeking the opinion of communities prior to implementing its programmes, Newmont had over the past seven years organized more than 600 meetings and participated in three Public Hearings held by the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency with various stakeholder groups at its Akyem project area.
He said the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Newmont Ghana for the Akyem project and approved by the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency contained the social and environmental impacts of the project and mitigation plans. The mitigation plans include those for the Yayaaso community, scattered hamlets and culturally significant sites and these issues had been extensively studied and publicly discussed.
"In general, the majority of the project-affected communities has participated in extensive consultations over the last seven years and is supportive of the Akyem project. There are some individuals who have residual issues that the company is working towards resolving, if at all possible," Mr Barnes said.
The statement said since 2005, representative committees had been established that negotiated for adequate and fair compensation and resettlement packages and agreements for these negotiations were reached in 2010.
It said progress had been made on compensation payments for crops, land use deprivation and immovable properties for farmers and landowners within the mining area.
A comprehensive resettlement package that included choice of resettlement site, house types and designs has also been discussed and agreed on in 2010.
Affected community members are now going through the process of choosing their residential plots within the agreed resettlement site and house designs for construction to begin. Currently there are 24 houses under construction for qualified households.
Newmont Ghana is also replacing existing churches and schools with improved infrastructure and adding new teachers' quarters, a Junior High School, a community centre and a marketplace. The company is extending electricity and water to the resettlement site.
The Akyem Project is a development project of Newmont Golden Ridge in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region. Newmont Ghana Gold, which operates the Ahafo Mine in the Brong-Ahafo Region, is one of the five core operating districts of Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the largest gold companies in the world.