MAC: Mines and Communities

Ghana: 3,000 fish allegedly killed by cyanide at Newmont mine

Published by MAC on 2012-08-13
Source: Ghana Business News (2012-08-08)

CEIA says death of 3000 fishes at Newmont’'s Ahafo mine due to cyanide spillage

Ghana Business News

8 August 2012

The Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA), an environmental integrity non-governmental organisation, said the 3,000 fishes that were discovered dead in a dam at Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) Ahafo Mine on January 3, 2012 was as a result of cyanide spillage.

A report published by CEIA said toxicological analysis of water in the dam where the dead fishes were discovered indicated the presence of large concentration of cyanide and other heavy metals – by-products of gold mining activities.

Newmont had attributed the fish-kill to over-population of fish and depletion in oxygen supply, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since January 3, 2012 to date not published the results of its investigations into the incident.

CEIA presented the results to farmers living in hamlets and cottages surrounding the dam at Damso on Wednesday August 1, 2012.

Mr Samuel Obiri, a Researcher at CEIA, who made the presentation, said quantities of chemicals used in the manufacture of pesticides and other agro-chemicals such as DDT found were negligible and, therefore, could not have caused the fish-kill.

He said the cyanide in the dam water sample was 1,400 per cent above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) level for safe water while that in the fish sample was 80 per cent above it.

Mr Obiri said the presence of arsenic in the water was 5,830 per cent above WHO’s safety level while that in the fish was 383 per cent above it. He said cadmium was 190 per cent above WHO safety level in the water sample and that in the fish was 575 per cent above the safety level.

Mr Obiri commended the farmers for not picking the dead fishes for sale in the markets at Ahafo Kenyasi; Sunyani, Kumasi or Accra.“You could have picked them, smoked them and sent them to Accra to go to sell them. More than 3,000 fishes could have been sold for more than GH¢200 and that of course is a huge amount at the rural economy level,” he said.

During question time, Mr Morin Lebi, a farmer, wondered whether they could drink water from boreholes since it had become apparent that dangerous chemicals had been seeping from the tailings dam into the fresh water dam.

Forty-eight farmers from the surrounding hamlets and cottages attended the meeting.

Mr Kwame Agbeko Azumah, Communication Manager of the NGGL Ahafo Mine, told GNA that they have not yet received a copy of the report and would respond appropriately when it was made available to them.

According to a committee set up by the government, Newmont in October 2009, misinformed the public about the extent of cyanide spillage at its Ahafo Mine, and added that NGGL was negligent and accused the Company of attempting to cover up the extent of the cyanide spillage.

The committee imposed a fine of seven million Ghana Cedis on the company, which it paid.

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