MAC: Mines and Communities

Vicious attack on peaceful protestors against Newmont in Ghana

Published by MAC on 2006-07-04

Vicious attack on peaceful protestors against Newmont in Ghana

4th July 2006

Last week, Newmont opened its large scale Ahafo gold mine in Ghana. A company spokesperson claimed it would exhibit "the best social responsibility and environmental" practices. The announcement followed shortly after police and military mounted an attack on community members protesting against those "practices".

According to Third World Network Africa a total of 76 people received injuries as a result of their nonviolent action.

Ntostroso community attacked

Third World Network, Africa

4th July 2006

On June 6th, 2006 members of the Ntotroso community went on a peaceful demonstration to protest against failed promises by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited.

According to members of the community, the company promised to employ 50% of the total work force in the community. For the last three years however the community noticed that the number of persons employed fell far below the 50% promised them. To make matters worse the company went ahead to retrench some of the few people it has employed. This made the people to go on the street calling on the compay to live up to its promises.

The police and military in response to the demonstration invaded the community, dispersed the demonstrators, went into houses and indiscriminately beat, molested and intimated several people. When we visited the community a total of 76 people complained of various injuries and lost of personal belongings.

Ntotroso is one of the many communities affected by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited Ahafo project in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana.

On July 4, Third World Network-Africa organised a press conference for some of the victims to draw public attention and to expose the police/military brutalities. The following statement was delivered there by

Statement Of Violence Perpetrated By State Military Against Some Members Of Ntotroso Community Affected By Newmont Ghana Gold Limited

4th July 2006

I wish to express my sincere gratitude and warm welcome to you the media for making time to participate in this press conference.

The purpose of this press conference is to draw public attention and expose police/military brutalities perpetrated against some members of Ntotroso community near Kenyasi in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. Ntotroso is one of the many communities in the Ahafo area affected by the operations of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) a US transnational mining company.

As some of you may be aware, on Tuesday June 6th, 2006 members of the Ntotroso community went on a peaceful demonstration. Their concern was that Newmont Gold Ghana Limited has reneged in their promises to the community. The company promised that they would employ not less than 50% of the total workforce in the community, the community noticed that so far the number of people employed from the community is far less than the number promised. In addition, the company has also laid off some of the few people who were employed.

In response to the protest police and soldiers invaded the community. They arrested, beat, drilled and harassed several innocent members of the community. About 12 noon the police arrived in the community and initially followed the demonstrators on the street apparently to offer protection. Then followed the arrival of the soldiers at about 1-2pm in three vehicles; one Tata bus, one pick-up and one Peugeot car full of soldiers.

The youth who were demonstrating ran away on seeing the soldiers. Five soldiers from the pick-up ordered the people who were around to clear the road which they did. The soldiers numbering about 60 in the Tata bus started beating indiscriminately. The soldiers assaulted anybody they saw in the community. The soldiers then went from house to house beating and dragging anybody they met. They finally arrested 13 people (7 women and 6 men) and sent them to Sunyani police cells where they were detained for three days.

In the process, some members of the community lost their property and many of them sustained various degrees of injuries. Some of the victims of the brutalities are here to give testimonies of the harrowing experiences they went through in the hands of the police and the military.

You would recall that on May 4th, 2006 at the International Press Centre, the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) launched a campaign to stop violence in the mining sector. At the launch, the Coalition expressed concern about the systematic use of violence by mining companies and state security under the guise of peace and order and or protection of private property.

The Ntotroso experience after the Coalition press conference is an affirmation of not only the magnitude of the problem but also the failure of the state to offer protection for its citizens as provided for under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.

In fact, the systematic violence perpetuated against people in communities affected by mining graphically illustrates not just a failure on the part of the State and its institutions but also a determination on the part of the State to offer protection and support for transnational mining corporations against the legitimate interest of people in communities affected by mining. We believe that such violence and police/military brutalities could have been averted or at least minimised if the State and its institutions live up to their responsibilities prescribed by and under the laws of Ghana.

Members of the press, I also want to state that next year marks the fifty years of our independence and sixteen consecutive years of Multy-party democracy. However, if state police and military that are being paid from our taxes are used to harass and intimidate innocent citizens then our motto (Freedom and Justice) is meaningless. Newmont has been in Ghana for about three years today. For its three year presence in the country the operations of the company has resulted in the lost of eight lives and injuries to several other people.

a.. We want to take this opportunity to appeal to the police and military to exercise restraint in dealing with communities who express legitimate concerns about the activities of mining. In any case demonstration is the constitutional right of self-expression.
b.. The police and military must also respect the laws and rights of all other citizens. We have chosen to go democracy and the police and military need to change their attitude to conform to such democratic practices and behaviours.
c.. We also want to call on the Government to carry out public investigation into the Ntotroso case.
d.. In fact the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces should institute a special enquiry into the police/military relationship with communities affected by mining.
e.. We also want to take this opportunity to re-echo the demands made by the National Coalition on mining (NCOM) at its last press conference. For purposes of reference we reproduce some of the demands as follows:

1. Demand that the state and the mining companies should stop the violence.
2. Call on the state to carry out public investigation into cases of violence against communities.
3. Demand that the state military should not be involved in policing mining projects.
4. The police should be accountable to their actions in accordance with their own rules.
5. All the laws applicable to the use of private security and their relationship with the public should rigorously be enforced.
6. We call on mining companies to respect the right of local communities and the State must take its proper role of offering protection for the citizenry.

[Statement read by Richard Adjei Polu for, and on behalf of, the victims of Ntotroso Community]

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