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25.05.2009 General News

Obuase: Communities stand up against surface mining

By myjoyonline
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Inhabitants of Adansi and Amansie, both mining communities within the Obuasi Mine of AngloGold Ashanti in the Ashanti Region have expressed worry over the negative effects of surface mining on their lives.

In a press statement, the inhabitants complained that since surface mining was intensified in the 1980s, many of them have lost large tracts of farmland to the mining conglomerate, while receiving very little compensation.

"For a greater number of these farmers, compensation paid has never been fair, adequate and prompt in accordance with the 1992 Constitution. Laughable though this may seem, some farmers who lost large acreages of farmlands were compensated with empty barrels, crates of egg, gallons of kerosene and bars of key soap. Is it fair for cocoa farmers whose sweat and toil have led the country to its present level of development to be treated with disdain like this?", the statement said.

The inhabitants further accused AngloGold Ashanti of polluting major river bodies in the in Adansi and Amansie.

"Hitherto used for washing, farming, cooking, recreation and worship, these water bodies have lost their essence and people can no longer use them. AngloGold Ashanti has either buried these water bodies with mine waste or polluted them with poisonous chemicals like cyanide. We recall with pain and trepidation, the pollution of River Fena, a major river body used by almost all the communities in the Amansie area in 1998. This singular act of wickedness on the part of the company has rendered River Fena almost useless for domestic and other purposes."

According to the communities River Fena is host to one of the most powerful deities in their communities and adherents to this deity periodically meet to perform rituals to pacify it. "Unfortunately, devotees to this deity have been denied their right to worship by the company. There are credible reports that some people died from unsuspectingly drinking water from the River Fena. There is this classic case of a pregnant woman from Nyamebekyere community who died instantly after using water from the river. If this is not sheer wickedness, then we do not know what it can be."

The communities further accused the company of committing "some of the most horrendous human right abuses" in the country by brutalizing people they conceive to be encroaching on their concessions. "We recount the case of Amos Abu, a young man from Sanso who was arrested for picking stones from a moving truck belonging to the company. After beating him to pulp, he was handcuffed and guard dogs released on him. They chewed off several parts of his body.

There is also the case of little Sandra whose Daddy was beaten up by AngloGold Ashanti security, leading to his death later at the AGA Hospital. Sandra's mother was then pregnant with her. We also recall the case of Awudu Mohammed, the 25 year old farmer from Sanso who was shot by a combined team of AngloGold Ashanti and state security for encroaching on the company's concession. The company claimed he sustained the injuries from the spikes on the fence he was attempting to jump over. This lie was later dispelled by the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital that confirmed that Awudu's wounds could only have come from gunshot.

The inhabitants have thus called on WACAM, an NGO working on their behalf, to pull out of negotiations it started with the mining company in 2003 "since the company is not interested in pursuing genuine dialogue with the view to addressing our problems.

They further appealed to government to compel the company to be sensitive to their plight. "In connection with this, we call on government to initiate an urgent amendment of the current Minerals and Mining Act that was passed in 2006. The law as it stands now does not address the needs of poor marginalised communities. It is more of a promotional document for mining companies operating in the country."

Another call went to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to implement the recommendations contained in the State of Human Rights in mining communities in Ghana Report 2008, "so that people like Awudu Mohammed and little Sandra Sarpong can get justice for the atrocities they and their relatives have suffered."

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should release the report on its investigations into the pollution of River Fena that they conducted as quickly as possible. "As we speak, the EPA claims it has forwarded the report to Obuasi. We however, do not know which institution in the town received the report. We smell something fishy so they should give us a copy of the report."

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