Tue, 02 Aug 2011 General News

Newmont wants dead royals exhumed

By Ghanaian Chronicle
Demonstrating youth at AyayasoDemonstrating youth at Ayayaso

Members of the Yayaso community in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region are up in arms against Newmont Ghana over the company's intention to exhume dead bodies from the royal mausoleum and 13 other sacred places to pave the way for the sites to be used as dumping grounds for waste material from mining.

In addition, the entire community has been ordered by the mining company to move to Adeesina, a town two miles away, but the town folks are voting with their feet. They have resolved to resist the attempt to defile the sacred grounds.

'We cannot abandon the fate of our ancestors to people whose only interest is in the money they are making from degrading our holy sites, Mr. John Appenteng, a resident of Yayaso told The Chronicle on phone.

According to the irate youth, the entire deal was conducted on the blind side of residents.

Mr. Appenteng told The Chronicle that Newmont Ghana planned to resettle them at Adeesina, two miles away without the consent of the affected people.

'We do not want to leave our dead bodies and other ancestral remains.'

He added that the Chief of Adeesina, Nana Bediabakron, who is also an employee of Newmont, came to Yayaso with some armed policemen to force residents of the community to leave and resettle at Adeesina, which degenerated into squabbles.

'As I am speaking to you now, the route leading to the cemetery has been blocked. We are now living in fear,' Mr. Appenteng stressed. 'The youth are up in arms. We do not think anybody has a right to move us without proper compensation.'

According to the youth of the Yayaso community, the management of Newmont (Akyem Project) failed to give recognition to the deep reverence Ghanaians have for their dead ancestors, and that was why they were asking the people to abandon their ancestral land.

'Reverence for the dead permeates all cultures, including western culture, and we cannot understand why Newmont wants to exhume the remains of our traditional rulers and ancestors and destroy our sacred sites in the course of making profits,' one youth remarked.

Portions of Newmont Ghana's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), chanced upon by The Chronicle, states: 'Approximately 396 million tonnes of waste rock and 116 million tonnes of ore would be removed from the mine pit associated with the Newmont Akyem Project over a 15-year mine life.'

This means that the about 396 million tonnes of the waste rock will be dumped into the yet-to-be-exhumed burial ground.

The study area evaluated for heritage resources included approximately 190 square kilometers within a 5-kilometre radius of the mining area where direct or indirect effects on the local people could occur.

The areas evaluated include the communities of New Abirem, Afosu, Ntronang, Mamanso, Old Abirem, Aayaso, Adausena and Hweakwae and 26 hamlets.

When contacted, Ms. Adiki Ofeibea Ayitevie, External and Communications Director of Newmont, told this paper that Newmont was in discussions with chiefs and opinion leaders of the affected community to try and reach an amicable settlement.

'We recognise the sensitivity of the issue. We respect the culture of the people and their reverence for their ancestors.

We cannot move anybody until the matter has been resolved amicably,' the External Affairs and Communication Director explained.

She said compensation package talks have been ongoing since 2009, and that they would not implement the evacuation of the people until everything had been agreed to. 'We are designing model houses for the comfort of the people.

But we would not rush them until everything was settled to the satisfaction of the people and our company,' Ms Ayitevie explained.