New Abirem (E/R), Nov. 8, GNA - The Police shot and killed one farmer and injured three others at New Abirem in the Brim North District of Eastern Region on November 2, when they went in defence of Newmont Gold Limited.
The victims were among a group of farmers, who were demanding that the right method must be used in calculating compensation for their cocoa and other economic trees that would be destroyed by Newmont Gold Ghana Limited in their concession.
The deceased was identified as Yaw Manu, 35, who died soon on admission at the Holy Family Hospital, Nkawkaw. The injured Anthony Arthur, 28, was admitted, while Kwaku Awentenga, 20 and Yaw Boateng, 23, were treated and discharged.
A meeting between Newmont and the Chief and people of the town a day earlier was deadlocked as the Company insisted on using the acreage method to calculate compensation to be paid while the people had demanded that the number of trees must be counted and paid for at an agreed price per tree.
Narrating the Police version of the incident to the GNA in Koforidua on Tuesday, the Eastern Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police Reynolds K. Kwakye said the Police Regional Headquarters received a call from an official of the Newmont Mining Company at New Abirem that the youth of the town had erected blockades on all roads in the town and were preventing vehicles and workers of the Company from passing to their offices and work sites.
He said three Police teams were dispatched to the town from Koforidua, Akim Oda and Nkawkaw to restore law and order. Mr Kwakye said a five-man Police team from nearby Ofoase was the first to reach the town but had to park at the outskirts because of the barricades and walked to the town.
He said on seeing the approaching Policemen, the demonstrators moved towards them and the Police fired, killing one and injuring two. Mr Kwakye said when the other Police reinforcement teams arrived in the town they managed to remove the barriers and restored law and order. On the background to the mob action, he said a day earlier the Chiefs and people of the town had gathered to discuss the deadlock between them and Newmont on its proposed payment of compensation of 15 million cedis and 31 million cedis per acre of destroyed oil palm trees and cocoa trees, respectively, within its concession.
In a related development the Wassa Association of Communities Affected By Mining (WACAM) in a statement signed by the Executive Director, Mr Daniel Owusu- Koranteng said: "It had been reported that farmers in New Abirem, whose farms would be destroyed to give way for Newmont's Akyem Mine were shot by the Police acting on behalf of Newmont when they embarked on a demonstration on November 2 2005 to protect their right to the payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation in the event of compulsory acquisition of lands for mining as provided in the Minerals and Mining law of Ghana (PNDC LAW 153).
"The shooting incident resulted in the death of one person and three people sustained serious wounds from gunshots.
"The farmers of New Abirem had complained about the imposition of mode of compensation payment by Newmont based on the acreage system for tree crops like Cocoa and Oil Palm, instead of the headcount method which entails the counting of the crops and negotiating on the rate per tree in addition to other problems.
"In the acreage system, the Company gives an arbitrary amount for an acre of tree crops like Cocoa, Coconut, Orange and Oil Palm. "The issue of compensation payment has been a basis for conflicts and the mining companies have tended to impose mode of compensation payments on poor farmers affected by their operations.
"Mining companies had taken advantage of the low capacity of poor mining communities arising from poverty and illiteracy to pay compensations that do not restore the livelihood of affected people. This has worsened poverty in many mining communities.
"The shooting, killing and maiming of the demonstrating farmers in New Abirem is not an isolated case. WACAM is deeply worried about the ease with which the security agencies especially the Police and the Military are used to protect the interest of mining companies as against the protection of the rights of mining communities.
"We are compelled to say that the security agencies are not sensitive to the rights of poor mining communities.
"We wish to make reference to a few specific cases to support our concern about the human rights violations in mining communities. "There had been many raids in mining communities on the concession of AngloGold Ashanti by security team of Military, Police and mine security under the guise of checking the activities of "Galamsey" operators.
"Some of the community complaints of human rights abuses against AngloGold Ashanti include but not limited to shooting of innocent people, beatings, unlawful arrest, harassment and the invasion of homes of residents without warrant.
"For example on the September 29 a security team of Military, Police and the security of AngloGold Ashanti organised a swoop in Sanso and in the operation arrested and detained Madam Afua Frimpong, a 70 year old lady for eight hours on allegations relating to "Galamsey".
"Similarly, Kwaku Addae, a young sportsman of Sanso, suffered permanent disability as a result of gunshots wounds he received when he participated in a demonstration against the former Ashanti Goldfields Company on the payment of compensation for properties destroyed by the Company.
"There had been the shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Prestea in June this year and despite calls for investigations into the shooting incident by the community and civil society organisations there had been no official reaction.
"These point to the fact that as a nation we are taking the rights of poor rural communities for granted.
"It is worrying that Newmont seems to be resorting to the use of brute force in addressing genuine community concerns even at the construction stage of the Company's operations.
"We call on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to investigate the New Abirem and Prestea shooting incidents.
"We further call on the IGP to educate members of the Police Service in mining areas to understand community rights in the event of mining and to check excesses in addressing mining related conflicts. "WACAM condemns the shooting of marginalised community people by agents acting on behalf of mining companies as barbaric and an indictment on the mining industry in Ghana.