Members of the Ahafo North Concerned Farmers Association are accusing Newmont Ghana Gold Limited of peddling falsehoods about the recent arrest and detention of some members of the association.
These farmers, who have been battling Newmont over issues surrounding compensation payments for several years, told the media at Terchire, near Duayaw Nkwanta, in the Ahafo Region that the multi-national mining company had been adopting various tactics to infringe on their fundamental human rights, including wrongful arrests and detentions, but would remain resolute in seeking justice through all available legal means.
They were emphatic that Newmont’s recent press release on the issue “was packed with misinformation that seeks to portray Newmont as a law-abiding and responsible company, but it is a company whose operations in the Tano North District have been characterized by human rights violations of poor farmers.”
It would be recalled that on 13th September, 2023, Newmont issued a statement in which it stated that some 21 farmers had refused to abide by the outcome of the negotiations and agreements with the Resettlement and Crop Rate Negotiation Committees, jointly constituted by the impacted farmers, property owners, traditional leaders, as well as community and government representatives.
The mining giant accused these 21 farmers of being “uncooperative despite extensive engagement” and are demanding individual negotiation, a situation Newmont considers “could result in potential rates beyond what was agreed by the Resettlement and Crop Rate Negotiation Committees…”
This disagreement between Newmont and the farmers led to the arrest and detention of some of these farmers, a situation which has further increased tension between the two parties.
Members of the association, whose membership currently stands at 84, say Newmont’s posture in the process is intimidating and insisted that they would stand on their grounds until the right things are done with regards to the taking over of their lands and properties vis-à-vis the right compensations due them.
Addressing the media at Terchire, Mr. John Mensah, the Chairman of the Concerned Farmers Association, accused the chiefs of Yamfo, Susuanso, Afrisipakrom, Terchire and Adrobaa as well as some political leaders of stabbing them at the back by conniving with the company to abuse their rights with impunity.
According to him, based on a complaint by Newmont that it was being prevented from working on these farmers’ lands, a meeting was held at Duayaw Nkwanta at the instance of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on December 8th, 2022 during which Newmont was asked to carry out a Land Parcel Survey to first identify the respective boundaries of landowners or lawful occupiers of land who will be affected by its activities.
“Till date the company hasn’t conducted this land parcel survey to identify and inform which of our members land will be impacted by their mining activities, but they have rather resorted to the practice of entering onto our members’ lands and destroying their farm properties without their consent”, he stated.
Mr. Mensah said Newmont admitted to the destruction of uncompensated land in Paragraph 6 of its media release on 13th September 2023 where it stated that “…There was an incidence where the company’s exploration team inadvertently impacted one of the farms that had not yet been compensated for…”
He continued: “We however want to draw the public’s attention to the fact that this wasn’t accidental but the usual unlawful mode of operation of the company. The company has entered the lands of about eight (8) members of the Concerned farmers group and unlawfully destroyed their farm properties without the consent of the landowners or lawful occupiers.”
He mentioned some of the key properties destroyed by Newmont without any negotiation with landowners as teak trees, cocoa farms, palm trees and food crops.
“I, John Mensah, am one of the victims of this atrocity. Other victims are Beatrice Mensah, Yaw Paul Asare, Abraham Amo, Silas Adjei Mensah, Gabriel Kofi Nelson, Abubakar Sadick and Emmanuel Kwame Marfo. We dare Newmont to provide proof of the landowners with whom they claim to have reached an amicable agreement to pay adequate compensation after trespassing onto their land to conduct their exploration activities, as stated in paragraph 6 of their media release,” he said.
Please find below the full Statement by the Concerned Farmers Association, as read at their press conference at Terchire near Duayaw Nkwanta, Tano North:
Statement by the Concerned Farmers Association in response to Newmont’s media release regarding the arrest and detention of some members of the Concerned Farmers Association. Terchire, Tuesday 26th September 2023.
We have found it necessary to make this statement to address the untruths spread by Newmont in its media release on September 13, 2023 in response to the arrest of members of the Concerned Farmers Association. The media release was packed with misinformation that seeks to portray Newmont as a law-abiding and responsive company, rather than a company whose operations in the Tano North District have been tarnished by human rights violations of affected farmers since its inception.
Access to lands of Members of Concerned Farmers Association
On December 8, 2022, at the invitation of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Concerned Farmers met with a team representing the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to act on a complaint from the Newmont Ahafo Mine alleging that the group-Concerned Farmers were preventing Newmont from working on the Concerned Farmers members’ lands. The Tano North Municipal Chief Executive hosted the meeting at Duayaw Nkwanta. The outcome of the said meeting was that the Minister would write to the parties for Newmont to carry out a Land Parcel Survey to first identify the respective boundaries of Landowners or lawful occupiers of land who will be affected by Newmont’s activities. This decision was reached because the Concerned Farmers Association have about 84 members who own or occupy lands within the Tano North District. The identification of lands that would be impacted by Newmont’s activities would be basis for further engagement with the affected farmers. The Concerned farmers group were represented by WACAM and CEPIL officials at the said meeting.
Instead of abiding by this decision, the company communicated to the members of the affected group that they would rather conduct a full built assets survey i.e., comprising enumeration of all farm properties and structures on one’s land. This was vehemently refused by members of the Association as it wasn’t the decision reached with the Minister’s representatives. We however indicated our availability for the conduct of the land parcel survey. Subsequent to the meeting of the Concerned Farmers with the team from the ministry, some Chiefs, from Ahafo, the Ahafo regional Minister and the DCE of Tano North organised a meeting at the Tyco City Hotel in Sunyani on 26th January 2023 to seek the mandate of the concerned farmers to represent us in our engagement with Newmont. We declined the proposal from the Chiefs indicating to them that we had mandated CEPIL and Wacam to represent our interest.
Till date the company hasn’t conducted this land parcel survey to identify and inform which of our member’s land will be impacted by their mining activities but they have rather resorted to the practice of entering onto our members’ lands and destroying their farm properties without their consent
Destruction of uncompensated lands by Newmont
The company has admitted to the destruction of uncompensated land in Paragraph 6 of its media release on 13th September 2023. It stated that “…There was an incidence where the company’s exploration team inadvertently impacted one of the farms that had not yet been compensated for…” We however want to draw the public’s attention to the fact that this wasn’t accidental but the usual unlawful mode of operation of the company. The company has entered the lands of about eight (8) members of the Concerned farmers group and unlawfully destroyed their farm properties without the consent of the landowners or lawful occupiers. The destroyed properties comprise teak trees, cocoa farms, palm trees and food crops belong to John Mensah, Beatrice Mensah, Yaw Paul Asare, Abraham Amo, Silas Adjei Mensah, Gabriel Kofi Nelson, Abubakar Sadick and Emmanuel Kwame Marfo. We dare Newmont to provide proof of the landowners with whom they claim to have reached an amicable agreement to pay adequate compensation after trespassing onto their land to conduct their exploration activities, as stated in paragraph 6 of their media release.
Even though Newmont is aware that these farms are the primary source of livelihood and survival for these farmers, they have been callous to the needs and interest of the landowners/ farmers and destroyed them. These farms are the main source of income for these farmers, families and dependents and the loss of these lands has left them impoverished.
On occasions we exercised our constitutional right to protect our farms from destruction, the Company, in concert with the Tano North District Police, arrest and detain our members.
Newmont Peddling lies on Court Orders.
On September 4th, 2023, three (3) members of the Concerned farmers group were arraigned before the Circuit Court, Duayaw Nkwanta upon complaint by the company for trespassing and unlawful damage of property. As the matter is pending before the Honourable Court, we’ll refrain from commenting on the incident. The accused persons were granted bail by the Court.
In Newmont’s media release the company disrespected the Court by making a false statement that the Court directed the accused person not to go to the mining area until the final determination of the trial.
We have a certified true copy of the court proceedings from that day in our possession, and there was no such order from the Court. The Court's directives dealt with admitting the accused to bail. The court did not make a determination on whether or not the land in issue is a mining area. Newmont’s claim that the Court ordered the accused to refrain from going to their farms or mining area/concession is false, and an afterthought by the company to justify the arrest and detention of four other members of the Association on September 6, 2023. This flagrant untruth and prejudicial statement by Newmont illustrates the company's disdain for not just the Court's orders, but also for the judiciary, our state institutions and the laws of the country.
Arrest and Detention of the farmers
The four persons arrested on 6th September 2023 and detained for two days by the Duayaw Nkwanta District Police, to date, do not know of any offence committed. Upon being granted police enquiry bail on 8th September 2023, Mr John Mensah’s approximately sixteen (16) acres teak farm which he sought to protect from destruction had been cleared by the mining company. Clearly the company used his arrest and detention period as an appropriate means to destroy his teak farm.
It is necessary to bring to your attention that none of the arrested persons who owns or is a lawful occupier of a land including John Mensah that had their farm properties destroyed by Newmont occasioning the arrest, consented to giving his or her land/ crops out or negotiated any amount as compensation whatsoever for Newmont to take over their lands. Infact, that necessitated the need for the farmers to protect their farms from destruction when the company started clearing their lands. The company has no right to enter onto the land to undertake any of its mining activities as provided for in Section 13(9) of the Minerals and Mining Act ,2006, Act 703.
Section 13 (9) states “Subject to sections 73 and 74(Compensation for disturbance of owner’s surface rights), a mineral right granted by the Minister under this section is sufficient authority for the holder over the land and entitles the holder to enter the land in respect of which the right is granted.”
In this instance, these arrested farmers have not been compensated for the disturbance of their surface rights so Newmont cannot enter onto their lands to conduct mining activities or claim it’s a mining area.
In the case of Mr Mensah, he is the lawful occupier of a teak farm by a lease agreement he entered with the landowner as far back as 2005. He has had exclusive possession of the land and crops on the farmland as the lawful occupier of the land for the past 18 years. As the lawful occupier he also owns the teak trees subject to the lease agreement with the landowners.
Assuming without admitting that Newmont has paid compensation to the landowner, does the landowners have exclusive possession over the land and teak farm within the lease or tenancy period to assess and negotiate compensation for the teak trees? Absolutely not. It is therefore not correct that Mr Mensah proceeded to harvest all the mature teak tress in the farm as alleged by the company. We the members of the concerned farmers association will continue to adopt all legal means to protect our lands from destruction from the company and ensure that our members whose farm properties have been destroyed are fairly and adequately compensated as well.
Government’s Intention to Compulsorily Acquire Lands for Mining and other related purposes
On or about June 2023, the Government of Ghana in a publication declared its intention to Compulsorily acquire some lands within the Tano North District for mining and other related uses. While government has started a process towards compulsorily acquiring some of the lands belonging to some members of the Concerned farmers’ association, no such lands as we write have been compulsorily acquired yet for the mining operations of Newmont in accordance with law. However, workers and agents of Newmont have entered onto lands belonging to some members of the Concerned Farmers Association and destroyed their farm properties. Although the Government published its intention to acquire land compulsorily in the affected communities in June 2023, there hasn’t been any assessment or enumeration of crops/properties by the Lands Commission and the affected farmers to arrive at compensation amounts for the affected farmers. The destruction of these lands will leave the farmers with no basis or evidence to demand compensation payments to be made to them. This again shows the blatant disrespect and disregard of the laws of the land concerning land acquisition processes.
We wish to state that, members of the Concerned Farmers Association are responsible and law abiding people who have made substantial investment on our farms over the years, as such, we will always employ all lawful and legitimate means to protect our investment from any wanton destruction, while demanding respect for our rights and under the laws of Ghana notwithstanding the intimidation, harassment and bullying from Newmont and its agents.
Joseph Adu Yaw
Secretary, Concerned Farmers Association, Terchire