Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Conflict Mining/Resources, E-Activism, Environment, Human Rights, Niger Delta

Mining violations in Ghana

Ghana is presently on the edge of a biodiversity disaster as mining companies such as Anglo Gold Ashanti (AGA), Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) and Newmont Gold Ghana (NGG). The use of toxic chemicals from the mining has led to contaminated water supplies. The forests which have been reduced from 8.3 million hectares in 1957 have been depleted to a mere 1.2 million with over 700 varieties of trees, plants, birds and animals all at risk of being destroyed forever.

“Biodiversity is being threatened everywhere, even in our landscape development but what we are concerned about is the impact that such activity would have on the biodiversity”, confirms a Biodiversity Expert, Prof Alfred Oteng Yeboah, explaining that “mining as an extractive activity destroys, therefore when mining is taking place in areas, which are containing very important natural Ghanaian biological resources, that activity limits the extension of those particular biological resources.”


In a similar situation to the Niger Delta region in Nigeria, the concerns of the communities where mining takes place are ignored and as a result there is continued conflict in these regions. The Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acts in favour of the mining multinationals without considering the ecological consequences of irresponsible mining practices that have led to the devastation and forced removal of people from their lands. In 2004 BGL was responsible for the spilling of cyanide and again in June this year.

Residents of Dumase and other villages found dead fishes, crabs, shrimps and other life forms floating on the river in the morning of 23rd October 2004. Some of the community people had harvested the dead fishes and eaten them before they had information about the spillage. This indicates that the company did not even know that the spillage had occurred.

Bogoso Gold has one of the worst record of environmental damage and human rights violations in Ghana. They have damaged 5 rivers, cocoa farms and are responsible for cyanide spillages in their area of operation. The situation in Ghana is hardly different to that of the Niger Delta or the DRC. In each country the multinationals behave like bullies towards the local communities, refuse to meet international standards of mining and pollution as well as human rights. The state governments are equally culpable in that they fail to strengthen the environmental laws and to even enforce those that exist whilst the rights of communities are tossed aside.

The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) has been monitoring the activities of both the multinationals and the EPA. One of the main problems is the weakness of the environmental laws plus the Ghanaian governments unwillingness (like in the Niger Delta) to insist on the multinationals meeting international standards in their mining activities. Protests by WACAM and local communities are met with violence and intimidation. Last week on November 27th, a group of activists were arrested whilst meeting with members of Yamfo, an area mined by NGG. WACAM put out an official press statement on the matter stating.

It is shameful and an act of cowardice that poor, powerless citizens cannot freely organise a private meeting to discuss issues bothering their livelihood because they are not complying with the desires of a powerful multinational company.

In this circumstance, it is with great regret that we would like to announce that we would not be able to attend the planned Ahafo Mine Tour and meeting with Newmont officials, because our security is not guaranteed. We would also have to discuss the arrest and bail terms with our lawyers. (Source WACAM email)

At present the WACAM activists are still in prison having been refused bail. WACAM’s latest press release is as follows:

This is to update you on the situation of the arrest and detention of our activists. Five of the activists arrested for having a meeting in a community centre in Yamfo were sent to the Circuit Court in Sunyani on the charge of meeting without permit. Initially, the Regional Police Commander for Brong Ahafo informed the arrested people that , they were arrested on the basis of a complaint by Newmont officials that our group organised the meeting with the name of Newmont and the Police added the charge of meeting without permit. Interestingly, when the accused were charged in court yesterday(30th November 2006) the complaint by Newmont officials was dropped. Newmont issued a statement denying knowledge of the basis of the arrest . The Joy FM , a popular private Radio station in Accra interviewed the Regional Police Commander , A.C.P Opare Addo yesterday and he confirmed in a radio interview that the community people were arrested on the basis of the complaint of Newmont officials that the group organised the meeting with the name of Newmont. Mr Opare Addo also confirmed in the Radio interview that WACAM and Mr Ibrahima Aidara were providing Human rights education to the Yamfo community . He went further to state that if WACAM had not issued a statement on the arrest of the activists, he would not have prosecuted the case in court.
The Circuit court Judge without hearing the case decided that the five accused community people should be sent for Prison custody for 2 weeks. The Judge prevailed on the Lawyer of the community people that he should convince the community people to plead guilty which the Lawyer declined.The Judge in deciding to send the community people to Prison custody, stated in open court that in recent times , the mining communities had been disturbing the foreign mining companies and he would use this case to set an example so that the community people would stop harrassing the mining companies. When our Lawyer sought bail for the community people the Judge mentioned that , he would loose his job if he granted them bail. The arrest and detention of the community people had generated a lot interest and condemnation . We are in touch with the activists and they are in good spirits . Our Lawyer is filing an appeal at the High Court against the continued imprisonment of the accused people. The basis of the appeal is that the Circuit Court Judge had made statements which shows that he has deep personal interest in the case and we think that our people would not have Justice before him. Unfortunately, today is a holiday in Ghana and the appeal at the High Court would be heard next week.

Links: Bogoso Gold shooting; Bogoso Gold mines; African Gold Mines DBGhana; ;

2 Comments

  1. I wish I could say I was surprised.

    The reality is that people in authority seem to have made the conscious decision to sideline environmental issues in order to encourage foreign investment. The cyanide spillages are one of the results of this.

    As the toxic spill in The Ivory Coast showed, we just aren’t paying enough attention to some things

  2. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    Dear friends,
    The Lawyer of the arrested activists appealed to the High court in Sunyani for the High Court to overturn the decision of the Circuit Court which committed the 5 activists of WACAM to a Prison sentence for 2 weeks from 30th November and would re-appear before the Circuit Court on 11th of December 2006. The High Court in Sunyani heard the appeal for bail for the activists today(6th December 2006) and the High Court Judge refused to grant the bail and made the following statement which was captured verbatim by Hannah [WACAM Director] who was in the court in Sunyani:

    ” I am a little adverse to granting bail when a matter is pending at the Lower Court unless I have cause to believe that the Lower Court is not acting properly. What I don’t want to do is something that would undermine the authority of the Lower Court. The advice I have to give you is to ask for bail at the Lower court again since 11th December is so close. I may not agree with everything said, but the caution I agree with, especially in matters of riot nature. I suspect or believe that this was what the court wanted to achieve. Come back to the High court on 12TH December if application for bail is not granted by the Lower Court on 11th December. ”

    The Lawyer for the arrested people contend that his clients have not infringed on any law in Ghana. The Public Order Law gives exemption to social gatherings, meeting of charitable organisations like NGOs etc which are exempted from special events which require Police permits.
    Regards
    Daniel