Communities Want Newmont To Resettle Them But The Mining Giant Says The Call Has No Basis

Some communities within the Newmont Ghana Gold Ahafo Mine Area have called on the Mining Company to, as a matter of urgency, resettle them since their lives are at risk due to the activities of the mine.

According to members of the communities, the activities of the mining company have become a grave danger to their lives and their means of livelihoods, where their farms and source of drinking water has been destroyed.

This was disclosed when a team of Journalists from Sunyani visited some of the communities which included Damso, Ananekrom and Osei-Wusukrom to ascertain the real issues affecting communities within the mining areas.

The trip was organized by a Non-Governmental Organization, Global Media Foundation, as part of the project; “Projecting Issues Affecting Mining Communities in the Public Domain,” which is sponsored by the Global Greengrants Fund in the U.S.A.

During the interaction with the communities, most of the members within the Damso, Ananekrom and Osei-Wusukrom complained of poor quality of water and alleged that the Subri River/stream which was their main source of drinking water has been polluted by the mining activities.

According to the community members, the construction of the Water Storage Facility/dam has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other strange insects which have been damaging their skin and increasing malaria cases in the area. And the alternative source of water provided by Newmont is of bad quality, with a foul odour which makes it unwholesome to drink.

The community members alleged that Newmont has stopped community members of particularly Ananekrom and Osei-Wusukrom from using their old road which is alleged to have been re-constructed by Newmont, while Newmont has stationed armed police to prevent them from using the road which they claim is the shortest to their respective hamlets.

Again, the communities allege that Newmont used to transport their children to and from school but have stopped, and it is affecting their children’s education, because due to the mining activities accessibility to the nearest school is problematic in terms of the distance.

However, the Communications Manager at the Newmont Ahafo Mine, Agbeko Kwame Azumah in an interview responded that there was no immediate plan to resettle those communities, adding that Resettlement has always been the last resort for the company and even for government.

He said Resettlement only happens when there is clear evidence that the area is needed for mining or there are no suitable measures to mitigate real or perceived impacts, the final determination to resettle is made by regulatory agencies such as Minerals Commission and/or the Environmental Protection Agency, and even that there are clear government guidelines on Resettlement.

“In all cases, the company needs to give justification to government before it can be permitted,” he added.  According to Mr. Agbeko Azumah, the Minerals Commission permitted that residents living within the 200m buffer zone around the perimeter of the Water Storage Facility (WSF) be resettled to ensure a peaceful co-existence between residents and the company.

“1n 2015, we resettled and completed all compensation payments for all households within the 200m buffer area. This covers an area of over 700 acres”, he indicated.

On the issue of the quality of water, Mr. Agbeko Azumah explained that the Water Storage Facility is an impoundment of local streams intended to provide supplementary fresh water for its Ahafo mine operations, which still remains a fresh water facility and not polluted by any mining activity.

“We have, however, provided potable water sources for our fence line communities, and all the boreholes are managed by Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Committees made up of trained community members who have been equipped with basic tools to manage the facilities,” he said.

The Ahafo Mine Communication Manager said, Newmont pays for any major maintenance works done by Contractors on any of these boreholes including replacement of parts.

On the issue of the Dam serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, Agbeko Azumah indicated that the Water Storage Facility was deliberately stocked with tilapia to feed on the mosquito larvae to minimize the incidence of malaria for communities living close to the facility.

“Since then, we have also resettled all households living within 200meters radius of the facility, as part of our community health programmes, we have provided treated mosquito bed-nets to communities around the facility as well”, he further narrated.

He said NGGL is not using armed police to prevent community members from accessing their hamlets, revealing that NGGL strategically constructed this road within its active mining areas to provide initial access to light vehicles and heavy duty machines for operational purposes.

There was no existing feeder road in the area, prior to the construction of the road in question. However, there is an arrangement with the communities to facilitate regulated access.  For instance, registration numbers of commercial/private vehicles plying that feeder road are given to Newmont Security to allow access.

Also, during emergencies, community members call Community Relations Officers to collaborate with NGGL Security to allow access. Newmont has been and is still bussing pupils within the fence line and that includes Damso, Osei -Wusu and Ananekrom to and from school.

From Michael Boateng, Kenyasi

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