MAC/20: Mines and Communities

GHANA: Campaign to stop the violence in mining

Published by MAC on 2006-05-04


GHANA: Campaign to stop the violence in mining

by National Coalition on Mining (NCOM)

4th May 2006

PRESS STATEMENT: LAUNCHED MAY 4TH, 2006, ACCRA, GHANA

Introduction

Dear Chairperson,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press,

Coalition members

Ladies and gentlemen

I am happy to read this statement on behalf of the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) a grouping of communities affected by mining and civil society organizations.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude and warm welcome to you the media, for making time to participate in this press conference. Today marks the launch of a national campaign to stop violence by the mining companies and state agencies against communities.

Violence against communities

Over the last two decades, communities such as Tarkwa, Prestea, Obuasi, Kenyasi, Bibiani, Akote, Ada and Bolgatanga have suffered systematic violence. The mining industry and state agencies have used violence against citizens and communities on the fringes of mining projects in order to protect mining interests. Many of these acts of violence have resulted in loss of property, severe injuries and even deaths of innocent community members whose only crime is by default to have settled on gold/mineral bearing rocks. The relationship between communities on the one hand and mining companies and the state on the other has been inherently disruptive.

Conditions for violence

State agencies and mining companies have often set the conditions for violence in order to suppress and diminish the interest and concerns of local communities. Mining activities mostly take place in rural areas and the people who live in these areas have already been marginalized in terms of their access to quality education, health and other social and economic infrastructure. The siting of mining projects that could potentially contribute to improving their quality of life have in many cases turned out to be a curse, further exacerbating their marginalized and subsistence existence. Mining activities have resulted in mass eviction and dislocation of whole communities, their environment the main source of livelihood destroyed, and their total economic, social and political organization needlessly disrupted. Compensation figures for various losses as a result of mining activities are often undervalued and payment unduly delayed. Promises of employment opportunities and community development usually made by mining companies and state officials to such communities with the start of mining projects are never materialized.

Nationally, very little has been achieved from the sustained mining boom. Despite the long history of mining in Ghana and the gold boom over the last two decades, the country has not as yet been able to translate the wealth of mining into building the productive capacity of the local communities and the country as a whole. The mining industry contributes only 5 % to GDP and about 12 % to national revenue. The large-scale industry directly employs only 18,000 people and yet there is escalating environmental and social cost externalized by the industry.

These conditions set the stage for dissent. With loss of farmlands, clean environment, housing and fresh water, coupled with unsustained alternative sources of livelihood, most communities on the fringes of mines logically protest. The protest takes many, varied forms such as complaints, petition, and demonstrations calling the attention of the state and the mining companies to their right to survival, clean environment, access to a minimum level of decent existence.

State and Corporate Response and cases of violence

The response of the state and mining companies to such calls has often turned violent. These are a few examples.

On 2nd February 2006, Soldiers acting on behalf of AngloGold Ashanti Iduapriem Mine Limited(AAIL) shot 4 farmers in Teberebie.

In Prestea, the communities demonstrated against Bogoso Gold Limited on 13th July 2005, the company in collaboration with the Ghana military opened fire on the demonstrators and seven people were wounded.

On 2nd November 2005, some farmers embarked on demonstration against Newmont Akyem mine on compensation issues. They were greeted with gunshots and two people died from gunshot wounds.

Yaw Mensah, a 20-year-old farmer in Dumase was shot in the arm by soldiers acting on behalf of Bogoso Gold Ltd. On accusation of trespassing on company property.

Invasion of communities by the military and police on the pretext of checking galamsey in communities such as Sanso and Binsere in Obuasi are common.

Awudu Mohammed was shot by a combined team of Police, Military and Mine security on 21st June 2005 on allegation of embarking on galamsey ["illegal" smallscale mining].

On 29th September 2005, there was a military/police and mine security swoop in Sanso. The security team arrested a 70-year old lady by name Madam Afua Frimpomaa on allegations of galamsey. She was in the custody of the mine security for about 8 hours.

Clement Kofi Baffoh of Aduaneyede in Obuasi was arrested on 9th June 2004 on allegations of galamsey by the mine security of AngloGold Ashanti. He died nine hours later in the custody of the mine security because of brutalization.

There are also several cases of the use of guard dogs on galamsey victims and the beating of suspects to death. Amos Abu of Sanso is one of the victims of an attack by a guard dog of AngloGold Ashanti. Suspects who were alleged to have been beaten to death by the combined security team of AngloGold Ashanti include Kwame Opoku of Sanso.

We wish to state that the systematic use of naked force and violence against communities has permeated the extractive sector. We witness several cases of violence against communities on the fringes of forest reserves. On 8 April, officials of the Forestry Commission (FC) evicted hundreds of so-called "illegal" settler communities from the Digya National Park at gunpoint. They further compelled the master of private vessel (also at gunpoint) to transport these "deportees" across the Volta Lake even though this involved exceeding the vessel's load capacity and clearly posed a risk to the "deportees". The overloaded vessel riding low in the water hit an underwater obstacle and capsized leading to the loss of possibly hundreds of lives. In the three weeks since this mass killing, and despite public outrage, the FC has not offered a public apology to the families of the victims. Nor has it held a single official of its Wildlife Division accountable even on an interim basis. How cheap the lives of poor rural citizens have become!

Only few days ago, it was announced that the Ghanaian government procured ships from the United States of America to mount surveillance on the Gulf of Guinea. This relationship between the governments of Ghana and the USA is not without a desire on the part of the US to capture the oil resources of the "New Persian Gulf" i.e. the Gulf of Guinea. The surveillance exercise and the US interest along the Gulf of Guinea have consequences for the future prosperity of local fisherfolks. Any major protest at community level has resulted in a retrenchment on community civil liberties and any serious but legitimate opposition to national policies has often been scorned as anti-development.

Reason behind State violence against communities

These atrocities against communities, the environment and the national economy, under the guise of law and order, are deliberate acts by the State to offer protection for transnational mining companies and to guarantee easy profitability. It is unfortunate that the state has turned against its primary role of offering protection for its citizens. We know that this is not an isolated act by the State and its agencies but rather an illustration to the extent to which the mining industry has systematically and remotely controlled the State since colonial period to their advantage.

In the current democratization process, Ghanaians are entitled to question the legitimacy of the practice of deploying the state military and their use to offer protection for private companies. Ghanaians are equally entitled to question the arbitrary use of private security by mining companies against communities. The practice of deploying the military to mining facilities is illegal.

Demands

In the light of the forgoing we members of NCOM thus:

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.

Conclusion

We are committed to working with communities and all other progressive minded people in the world to resist and eradicate violence in the mining sector. We wish to use this occasion to solicit public support and that of the media in eradicating such violence in the mining sector

List of organizations

1.. Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af)
2.. Civic Response
3.. ABANTU for Development
4.. Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL)
5.. Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM)
6.. Centre for Environmental Law and Development (CELD)
7.. Friends of the Earth-Ghana (FOE-Ghana)
8.. Green Earth Organization (GEO)
9.. GrassrootsAfrica
10.. Friends of the Nation
11.. Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC)
12.. Challenge Africa
13.. Richard Adjei-Poku, Kenyasi Community
14.. Benjamin Anan, Obuasi Community
15.. Teberebie Community
16.. Prestea Community

TWN-Africa is secretariat of the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM). For further information, contact Abdulai Darimani at Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Africa), Box AN 19452, Accra-North, Ghana. Tel. +233-21- 503669/500419/511189

Fax:+233-21-511188

Email: environment@twnafrica.org

Website: www.twnafrica.org

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