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25.10.2004 General News

EPA investigates cyanide spillage at Bogoso

By GNA

Accra, Oct. 25, GNA - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Monday that it is investigating repots of spillage of sodium cyanide solution into the Apepra Stream, near Dumasi, in the Wassa West District by Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL)

A statement issued in Accra by the Executive Director of EPA, said the source of the sodium cyanide discharge was traced to a newly constructed tailings storage facility.

The statement said the team conducted a survey along a four-kilometre stretch of the stream and found that 125 fishes had died. "A number of samples have been taken including surface water and sediments. The samples collected are currently being analysed. "The results of initial free cyanide assessments conducted indicated elevated concentration above EPA threshold values." EPA said it received information of the spillage on Saturday from its District at Tarkwa.

The statement said the EPA District Team in the company of the Minerals Commission District Officer; Acting General Manager of BGL and some embers of the Dumasi community visited the Apepra Stream.

"The investigation team immediately informed members of the Dumasi Community and its environs about the extent of the contamination. "The community members were requested subsequently not to use water from the stream for any purpose and also not to consume any fish, either live or dead, from the stream until otherwise notified."

EPA said it had, as a matter of urgency, directed the Company to provide adequate potable water to all affected communities downstream of the point of discharge.

It said remediation measures had been taken and the EPA had set up a 24-hour monitoring mechanism.

EPA said it would, as a matter of urgency, come out with the findings when investigations were complete.

The Ghana News Agency on Sunday reported that an unmeasured amount of solution containing cyanide from Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) Tailings Dam spilled into Apepra Stream, a tributary of River Ankobra at Dumase, near Prestea in the Western Region on Saturday.

Consequently hundreds of dead fishes were found floating in the stream.

The cyanide solution spilled through a pipe laid from a new tailings storage facility at BGL Mine site into the external environment.

A source at the local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office said a seepage sump was to be built at a point where the effluent from the tailing dam could be pumped back into the dam, thereby preventing the effluent from entering the external environment.

Unfortunately, the seepage stump had not been constructed for the new tailing dam when the discharge of the effluent started.

The cyanide solution, therefore, flowed through the pipe and first joined the Agyoo Stream, a tributary of Apepra, which served as source of drinking water for the Dumase community.

Mr Kwadwo Appiah, an Elder of the Town told the Ghana News Agency that on Saturday morning some dead fishes were found floating in the Apepra stream and this made them become suspicious that the stream had been contaminated.

Mr Appiah said a number of Opinion Leaders in the town including, Mr Prince Aidoo, Unit Committee Chairman, Mr Justice Oppong, Chief Farmer and Mr Odei Nkrumah, an Elder, went to Mr Neil Stevenson, Acting General Manager of BGL, at the Mine Site to inform him.

When the GNA contacted Mr Stevenson, he confirmed the spillage and said the Company would soon come out with a comprehensive report on the incident.

In a related development the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) on Sunday issued a statement on the cyanide spillage into tributaries of River Ankobrah in the Western Region.

The statement signed by Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director, said: "WACAM wishes to bring to the public notice the cyanide spillage of Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), a Canadian Company, which occurred on Saturday 23rd October 2004.

"The spillage was from the new tailings dam of the Company into river Aprepre and other rivers including Egya Nsiah, Benya and Manse. These rivers flow into the big river Ankobra.

"The cyanide spillage has affected Dumase town and other communities like Goloto, Juaben, Kokofu and Egyabroni.

"Residents of Dumase and other villages found dead fishes, crabs, shrimps and other life forms floating on the river in the morning of 23rd October 2004. Some of the community people had harvested the dead fishes and eaten them before they had information about the spillage. This indicates that the Company did not even know that the spillage had occurred.

"The human rights violations and environmental problems of Bogoso Gold Limited have been a source of conflict between the communities and the company for a long time.

"We wish to recall that in 1991, there was a cyanide spillage by Billiton Bogoso Gold now Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL).

"According to the report of the Cyanide Investigative Committee set up in 2002 by the Government of Ghana to investigate the Cyanide spillage of Goldfields Ghana Limited and other cyanide spillages, the committee did not obtain much information on the 1991cyanide spillage of Billiton Bogoso Gold now Bogoso Gold Limited.

"Already, the operations of Bogoso Gold Limited have resulted in the death of five rivers in Dumase and most of the communities in the area have no source of drinking water.

"For example, the boreholes constructed by the company for Dumase community turns blue-black when the water from the boreholes comes into contact with plantain and cassava.

"The boreholes were constructed for the community to replace the destruction of the five streams of the Dumase community by the operations of BGL. Other communities in the concession of the company perceive their rivers as polluted by the operations of the company.

"Residents of some communities on the concession of BGL had to voluntarily abandon their cocoa farms and other properties and relocated to other communities because the Company was insensitive to their complaints about cyanide spillages and the effects of the old tailings dam.

The statement said: "Ghana has recorded more than nine cyanide spillages since the liberalisation of the mining sector and WACAM expresses grave concern about the impact of such cyanide spillages on mining communities.

"Cyanide spillages affect community livelihood and have other socio-cultural effects on mining communities especially rural women. We must recognise that community lives are physically, economically, emotionally and spiritually bound to their rivers.

"Pollution of such water bodies through cyanide spillages means loss of income, loss of reliable source of proteins for rural people and communities get traumatised.

"Unfortunately, there had been attempts by the mining industry and their allies to downplay the effects of cyanide spillages and to create the impression that because cyanide degrades with time, its effects last for only some few hours in rivers.

"This impression overlooks the long-term social, economic, psychological and the chemical pollution effects of cyanide spillages. Some of these effects are almost permanent and the nation is going to inherit these legacies after the mining boom is over. This has implication for the economy of the country and development in general.

The statement said: "The spate of cyanide spillages in Ghana is indicative of bad mining practices and WACAM calls on Parliament to take all these community issues into consideration when discussing the new mining bill that is going to be placed before Parliament very soon. "WACAM calls on government and the communities to hold Bogoso Gold Limited responsible for the impact of the cyanide spillage, which includes the loss of livelihood and loss of access to drinking water, the statement, said.

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