A forum on irresponsible mining has ended in Sunyani with a call on the media to throw more light on the negative effects of irresponsible mining on people in mining communities and the nation as a whole.
It was organized by WACAM, a premier community based human rights and environmental mining advocacy NGO in Ghana with a community-based focus.
Formed in 1998, WACAM has worked to respond to the social, environmental and economic problems that had resulted from the increased mining investment of the third gold rush.
Some community members whose lives are being endangered by the activities of large-scale mining companies from Bogoso, Prestea and Tarkwa in the Western Region, Kenyase Number One, Kenyase Number Two and Yamfo in the Brong Ahafo Region were at the forum to share their harrowing experiences on how their mining companies have worsened their plight.
Community members from Kenyase Number One and Kenyase Number Two, for instance, narrated how their health had been toiled with by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) over the last decade or more since the company started mining in the area.
According to them, they “are now living on tenterhooks as all their major sources of drinking water had been severely polluted as a result of the operations of Newmont.”
“All our streams and rivers have been seriously polluted to the extent that even water from the boreholes provided by the company is also polluted.”
They continued, “our chiefs and opinion leaders who are supposed to fight for our course have all disappointed us. Our chiefs have been given various contracts by Newmont and so they no longer seek our interest but theirs alone. They simply don’t care about us.”
“We have therefore lost total confidence in our chiefs and so we are now counting on the media to fight for us otherwise our pleas will not be heard by government.”
They indicated that they would soon stage a massive demonstration in Kenyase to further press home their demands, key among them being issues related to environmental pollution, blast noise and vibration, among several others.
Abdallah Salifu, a resident of Kenyase Number Two said all the infrastructural projects being undertaken by Newmont under the guise of social responsibility are false claims.
Rather, he said the projects are replacements of structures that existed in the area before Newmont begun mining activities in the area.
“Kodiwohia, one of the resettled communities had a school and a stream, which served as a reliable source of drinking water and so if you resettle them and provide them with a new school block and a borehole, it’s no news, you’ve only replaced what you destroyed to make way for your mining activities”, Mr. Abdallah Salifu said.
He said several of such stories can be told about most of the projects undertaken by the company in communities in its operational areas in Ahafo.
For her part, the Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Mrs. Hanna Owusu-Koranteng, said the impression created over the years that lands belonged to chiefs was erroneous and that “our chiefs are stewards and trustees of lands and not owners.”
Participants at the forum resolved to double their efforts at highlighting the challenges facing people whose lives have been adversely affected by mining, especially when such people have lost total confidence in their chiefs and key opinion leaders in helping them out of their predicament.