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General News | Apr 1, 2004

Controversy brews over cyanide spillage

Ghanaian Chronicle

Prestea (Western Region – Gh) 1 April 2004 - The recent cyanide spillage at Prestea Sankofa Goldmine, a concession own by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) in the Western Region is beginning to stir up controversy between mining officials and environmentalist Non- Governmental Organizations (NGO).

Two weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a formal statement sanctioning the mining company, the executive director of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), Daniel Owusu-Koranteng said the EPA ought to have done more. “We call for a full investigation into the causes and impact of the cyanide spillage at Prestea Sankofa Goldmine.”

Speaking to The Chronicle in Accra yesterday, Owusu-Koranteng said it was not enough for the EPA to just sanction the company; rather it should go further to investigate the issue considering the fact that a water body had been polluted and that it affected the livelihood of the communities in the mining area.

However, the Director of Mining at the EPA, Nana Anthony Andoh said the EPA had already begun an investigation into the incident and had put in place measures to prevent the community from fishing in that river.

In a release issued in Accra on Monday and addressed to the Minister of Environment copied to the Minister of Mines and the District Chief Executive of Wassa West, Owusu-Koranteng condemned the manner in which mining operations were being carried out saying, “the nation may be confronted with the problem of using the minimal benefits accruing from mining to solve the mining legacy problems in the future.”

According to Owusu-Koranteng the cyanide spillages stemmed from the long term impacts on water bodies, health status of mining communities and their livelihood and hence the need for a serious concern.

He said WACAM was worried about the attempts by mining companies and some intellectuals to trivialize the negative impacts of cyanide spillages on mining communities. However, Nana Andoh said the mine was responsible for the supply of drinkable water to the village. “Security has been placed at the river to prevent the villagers from taking fish from the river,” Nana Andoh said.

Asked what kind of sanctions would be imposed on the mining company should it be found that the spillage was due to its own negligence, Nana Andoh said the appropriate sanction would be applied. He said order for the company to halt its operation was intended to help the EPA conduct its investigations.

On Saturday March 21, 2004, the people in the village near the mining concession spotted a cyanide spillage in their river and reported the matter to the mine. Following the report the EPA temporarily closed down the concession to enable it investigate the cause and its consequences.

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