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21.12.2005 Business & Finance

Mining companies must respect human rights - WACAM

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Accra, Dec. 21, GNA - The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) has appealed for public support to halt the filtering of faecal matter and sludge by the activities of Newmont Ghana, a mining company, into River Asuopre in the environs of Kenyase in the Brong Ahafo Region.

"It is an act that degrades the dignity of the community people, and we condemn it in the strongest of terms.

"WACAM calls on all patriotic Ghanaians to be vigilant in the face of increased mining related human rights violations", the Association stated at a press conference in Accra on Wednesday.

WACAM said the press conference was to provide further information on the disposal of faecal matter into River Asuopre and point out "inconsistencies, contradictions presented by Newmont to the public on "the faecal pollution issue".

The Executive Director of WACAM, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng said though Newmont tried to create the impression that there was an accidental discharge of faecal sludge into the environment, WACAM's investigations indicated that the facility was a permanent structure that allowed regular flow of faecal matter and sludge into River Asuopre.

He referred to statement attributed to Dr Chris Anderson, Director of External Affairs in an Accra newspaper, refuting the complaint as an attempt to play the technical game, and "clearly shows to the efforts of the Company to use technicalities to cover up".

Mr Owusu-Koranteng said Dr Anderson's statement that there was no spillage of faecal sludge, contradicted the "earlier releases of Newmont where the Company conceded spillage for which preliminary result had established that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits had been exceeded.

"The important question is that if the facility was that safe and efficient why did the Company undertake a clean-up of the facility when the issue was put into the public domain?

"WACAM believes that the clean up of the facility was part of a grand design to destroy vital evidence relating to the disposal of faecal matter into River Asuopre," Mr Owusu-Koranteng said. Mr Owusu-Koranteng said WACAM wanted the "public to know that Newmont has a poor culture of waste disposal.

"Newmont is disposing mine waste into the sea in Indonesia and going to great lengths to justify this act as it is doing in the face of faecal matter disposal in Ghana."

He raised other concerns of the community of the Newmont Ahafo Mine as payment of low compensation to affected farmers saying; "Newmont paid less than 70 cedis for a cocoa tree that can yield about half a bag of cocoa beans per year and can last for about 40 years." He said Newmont had constructed a dam on River Subiri, which posed danger to some communities adding that two people drowned in the dam last October.

Also, there was a drastic reduction in the number of rooms the Company constructed for the affected farmers, who had been resettled and the farmers had also complained that the rooms were too small, and the displacement of communities resulted in loss of livelihood and increased unemployment in Kenyase.

Mr Samuel Obiri, Chemical Analyst of the Mining Impacts Research Laboratory, said studies on samples of water collected and analysed from River Asuopre and nearby streams showed the presence of the dangerous e-colic bacteria.

Two residents within the Kenyase community testified that people had been suffering from diarrhoeal diseases and strong pains in the lower abdomen.

Prof Atta Britwum, a Member of WACAM, called for proper regulatory framework and removal of shortcomings of laws on mining activities. In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Ms Mawuena Dumor, Communications Manager of Newmont, said it was not true there was any faecal disposal into any river but that there was an upsurge of the waste disposal and that when it occurred Newmont contained the situation and took remedial measures with the Environmental Protection Agency and made public announcement about it.

Ms Dumor said it was sad that several invitations Mewmont extended to WACAM to discuss their concern and that of the community that they were talking about had failed.

She said: "We don't want to be debating WACAM. We want them to constructively help us address their concerns in the interest of all."