Newmont accused of "acts of intimidation and harassment" against community critics in Ghana
In January this year, the world's second biggest corporate gold miner, Newmont, was found guilty of causing a massive cyanide spill at its showpiece Ahafo mine in Ghana, three months before.
The US company was fined just under US$5 million and issued a weak "apology".
But, according to farmers affected by the disaster, joined by a prominent Ghanaian NGO, the company has since perpetrated "dirty tricks" against those who spoke out against the company in the first place.
Newmont accused of "acts of intimidation and harassment" against community critics
Joint Press Statement by Representatives of Affected Farmers of Newmont Cyanide Spillage and Livelihood & Environment Ghana (LEG)
1 March 2010
Members of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
We welcome you all to this important press conference organized by we representatives of farmers affected by Newmont Ahafo cyanide spillage and Livelihood & Environmental Ghana (LEG)., environment and human rights advocacy non-governmental organization operating in Ahafo and other mining communities in Ghana.
The purpose of this press conference is to deny allegations and expose some dirty tricks and bad tactics perpetrated by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) on the Executive Director of LEG in particular and the community in general. We believe that the actions and behavior of the company is orchestrated to intimidate and silence community voice and dissent on the matter of the cyanide spillage and Newmont's operations in the area.
You would recall that around 8th of October 2009, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited sadly released unknown amount of cyanide solution into the environment of Jakakrom and surrounding communities near Kenyasi in the Asutifi District in Brong Ahafo region of Ghana causing pollution, health problems and loss of aquatic life.
2. Acts of intimidation and harassment by Newmont Ghana Gold limited
Since the spillage, the Company has consistently embarked on image destruction, acts of intimidation and harassment particularly against the Executive Director of LEG.
2.1 Unlawful arrest and detention for 48 hours without basis
On the 15th of January, 2010 officials of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited falsely accused the Executive Director of LEG for stealing roofing sheets in the Ahafo concession. On the basis of the mere suspicion and false allegation he was sent to Kenyasi Number 1 Police Station and put in custody for three clear days before he was released. To date both Newmont and the Kenyasi police have not preferred charges against Richard Adjei-Poku because the matter turned out to be untrue.
2.2 Extortion of money from farmers
Newmont has again falsely accused the Executive Director of LEG for extorting money from innocent farmers. We want to categorically deny that the Executive Director of LEG Richard Adjei-Poku is extorting money from farmers. It is important to provide a brief background to this falsehood perpetrated by the Company.
As many some of you may be aware, following the cyanide spillage which sad incident occurred on 8th October, 2009 LEG has been working with the affected communities to ensure environmental clean-up, sanctions against the company and justice in the distribution of any compensation that may be paid. To this end, LEG and some of the affected farmers petitioned the Ministers of Environment, Science and Technology as well Lands and Natural Resources. The petition demanded for sanctions against the Newmont and compensation for affected people among others. Again, when we heard the announcement that the company has been asked to pay Seven Million Ghana Cedis as fine for the spillage we again wrote a letter thanking the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology and raising fundamental questions regarding the distribution of the community portion of the money. Some of the questions we raised are: Who are the beneficiaries of the money? What criteria would be used in determining beneficiaries? Who will facilitate the community portion of the money?
In both cases we had to travel from Kenyasi as a team to hand-deliver the petition/letter to the Ministers in Accra. In the first case, LEG covered the cost of the trip. In the second case, LEG requested the farmers to cover the cost of travels of their representatives on the team who were four (4) in number. So the farmers agreed to the proposal and made contribution to sponsor their representatives. They decided on the amount and how it should be used. This money did not come to LEG neither did LEG had a say about who should pay, how much and how the money should be used.
Stop farmers from farming
The company has stopped some farmers in the area form farming with the excuse that it intends to expand mining operations. All farmers in Yellow-grumakrom and Tutuka area have been stopped from farming during this season. We believe that this is an issue which ought to be properly negotiated between the farmers and the company. The unilateral action by Newmont is nothing but harassment and intimidation to silence the farmers from making legitimate demands about the operations of the company in the area.
Our Vigilance on Newmont
We believe that these dirty tactics deployed by Newmont is meant to intimidate and silence dissenting voice, particular the vigilance that we have over the years mounted on the operations of the company. You would recalled that LEG in collaboration its members have on several occasions exposed the negative impacts of Newmont on the environment, livelihood and lives of the people. We re-state a few of them as follows:
1. The death of six (6) innocent people as consequences of mining activities in the Ahafo area within three year timeframe.
2. The release of faecal matter into river Suapre
3. The use of police and military for harassing innocent demonstrators in Ntotroso in 2006
4. Fire outbreak which resulted in the complete destruction of Maami Yaa Akosua Sekyiraa and husband cocoa farm in 2008.
5. The refusal of Newmont to comply with CHRAJ recommendations to pay compensation to one Norbert Anane Nyarko whose farm Newmont destroyed without compensation.
6. The blasting, noise pollution, destruction of water and general environmental and safety problems created by Newmont in Manu-shed and surrounding communities.
7. Our work with communities which resulted in increased compensation entitlements and an abrogation of the automatic 10% annual increment
All these have made LEG and allies unpopular to Newmont.
We wish to call on Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) to desist from such acts of falsehood and misinformation.
We shall not relent in our effort to protect the environment and community rights.
We reaffirm our unity to work together in solidarity with communities, and other civil society organizations as well as the media to protect the environment and community livelihoods and rights.
1. Richard Adjei-Poku
Livelihood & Environment Ghana
0243-388299 or 0275-537802 or 020-0383286
2. Angelina Antwi Kenyasi
3. Augustine Badu
4. Opanin Yaw Kontor