Some communities and hamlets within the catchment area of Subri River in Newmont Ghana Gold Limited's (NGGL) Ahafo mine, are accusing the mining giant, for polluting the river dam, killing several fishes in the dam.
They are suspecting that Newmont has spilled the very toxic chemical that led to the death of large number of fishes in the Subri River in October 2009.
When this reporter visited the dam, large number of fish was found dead and floating on the surface of the water dam.
Some birds were spotted feeding on the dead fishes, especially the fingerlings, which were the most affected.
According to the people, the number of dead fishes kept increasing day by day since December 20, 2011, when they first visited the dam, upon a report by one of their sons who went looking for the father's sheep that he had spotted few of the fishes dead and floating. It was then that community realised the stench smelling in the area was coming from the dam.
On January 2, 2012, when this reporter among other journalists visited the dam, Newmont officials were busy picking up the dead fishes from Subri River Dam.
The community people interviewed disclosed that the company had picked up many of the dead fishes throughout the day and night of the New Year and were continuing the next morning when this reporter and a team of environmental journalists bumped on them.
A 53-year-old farmer, Iddrisu Abugri said their livestock have been dying mysteriously without showing any symptoms of the commonest diseases that usually attack livestock that these experienced farmers know off. He suspects their animals might have drunk from the polluted river dam.
“Breathing clean oxygen in the communities around the dam is now a luxury”, he said, hinting that the offensive odour becomes worse in the night.
The people living in the hamlets and the communities said they were tired of living in such a polluted environment, citing the stench emanating from toxic chemicals, dead fishes and other dead animals that drank from the river dam, as health risk.
Mr. Issifu Dambilla, another farmer in the area, said it was very irritating to Newmont defending the indefensible after committing such a crime and turn around to accuse the communities of chemical fishing.
“Where can we get money to buy barrels of chemicals to pollute huge dam of this sort”, he asked, adding, “We would rather spend such money on our wives and kids instead.”
“My son, you can mark my words that Newmont will put a spin on this issue and soon cook up a story in defence”, he told this reporter.
The communities called for thorough investigation into the incident to unravel the causal factors, enjoining EPA to make the cause of the dead fishes known to the public after their investigations. They expressed worry about EPA's reluctant to announce the cause of the first incident, which recorded several dead fishes, to them and the public at large.
The communities are Kwame Aduanikrom, Ahunukrom and Kwaku Addaikrom and the hamlets include Adukrom, Adwoa Addae, Osmani,Nyantakyi, Issifu, Akrongu, Sulley, Ayaaba, Nana Acheampong, Montokrom and Opanin Koofie hamlets.
They have therefore called on President J. E. A Mills and the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology (MEST), to compel Newmont to resettle them since the company had proved beyond all doubts that it could not conduct its operations without impacting negative effect on their health and total wellbeing.
They have warned to advise themselves if the powers that be fail to heed to their cry since their chiefs, according to them, had suppressed them, on such matters for a long time.
Initial information gathered from the Environmental Department of the company indicated that some residents around the dam laid fishing nets, caught the fishes and later threw them in the dam, when the fishes died. But for what reason, he could not tell, when asked by this reporter.
Strangely, Communications Manager of Newmont Ahafo Mine, Kwame Azumah Agbeko, in an interview, attributed the death of the fishes to nature, describing it as a natural annual phenomenon that occurs between December and February.
However, a biologist, who pleaded anonymity, told this reporter in a telephone interview that fishes dying in such large quantities in their natural habitat could not be described as a natural phenomenon. According to her, unless a poisonous foreign material, usually, toxic chemicals, are introduced in their habitat, suggesting that the raw water dam might be heavily polluted with some dangerous chemicals.
In an interview, the Executive Director of Wacam, Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, revealed that the communities around the dam, had been experiencing the deaths of fishes in the Subri dam and its attendant stench regularly in both dry and rainy seasons, and had made reports to the EPA anytime they occurred.
“It is therefore unfortunate that attempts are made to blame the very communities who are affected by the construction of the dam on Subri river for its pollution”, he noted.
He also called on EPA to get to the bottom of the cause of the pollution and inform Ghanaians, emphasising that “the death of large quantities of fishes is a matter of public interest.”
It would be recalled that somewhere October 2009, Newmont's carelessness led to spillage of Cyanide, a dangerous chemical, into the Subri River, killing several fishes.
The company initially started defending its action by accusing the residents in the area of chemical fishing, and later when the inscriptions became boldly clear on the walls, Newmont then begun downplaying the magnitude of the cyanide spillage.
The company, after EPA's investigations, was found culpable and subsequently fined a penalty of 7 million Ghana cedis, which the company paid to the government, a year after the spillage and also provided alternative source of water to the communities.