Sunday, September 1, 2013

Revenue Watch Institute to the Rescue of Mining Community

Francis Npong, Kintaka, B/A
RWI Africa Co-ordinator, Emmanuel Kuyole-Picture Francis Npong
RWI Africa Co-ordinator, Emmanuel Kuyole-Picture Francis Npong
The Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) has donated unspecified quantity of Treated Mosquito Nets worth thousands of Ghana cedis to Kantinka community in the Brong Ahafo Region. Dormaa-Kantinka as the village is popularly known is located in the Newmont Mining concession near Kenyasi.
The donation, according to the Africa Regional Coordinator of Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), Mr. Emmanuel Kuyole, is to help protect the community members including children from being bitten by malaria infliction insect- mosquito.
He explained that the gesture was also part of the organization’s efforts to help prevent or minimize malaria infections and other stinging insect attacks on the community.
This was when he led about 45 people from 12 different countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritania, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe among other countries who participated in the 2013 Summer School to the community to learn for themselves the impacts of mining activities on communities’ livelihoods.
The learning programme organized by RWI was also supported by GIZ, a Germany International Development Organization. Dubbed, “Regional Extractive Industries Knowledge Hub (REIK HUB) Summer School 2013 focused on the governance of oil, gas and mining revenues.
The participants who were drawn from Civil Society Organizations, governments departments (especially revenue departments), senior journalists and environmental advocates also visited the Newmont mining concession where they were conducted round various mining pits, including Cyanide Containment Dam, reclaimed land site by the officials of the company.
Most of the participants were shocked when the team got to the Kantinka community where the community members raised various allegations against Newmont Ghana Gold Limited for worsening livelihood situations. “All that Newmont told us about Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation and it activities were actually not exactly what existed on the ground? I am not surprised mining companies always told their own stories to please the shareholders”, said Mauritania representative Mr. Balious Coulibaly.
Earlier officials from Newmont Ghana Gold Limited at a briefing indicated that the foundation established by the company took care of communities needs including resettlement  and infrastructure.
Briefing this reporter after addressing the delegates, the Assembly woman for Atoa-Odumasi Electoral Area, Madam Afia Sampong who commended RWI for the gesture stressed that the community was now living under appalling conditions since the commencement of commercial mining activities some years ago.
“The first to be destroyed were our water bodies and farmlands” the assembly woman said and that when they complained Newmont dug a borehole and that it was later realized the borehole was infected with some worms. She said the community complained again to the company to disinfect the borehole to make the water safe to drink but they refused claiming “we were making up stories”. She showed to the participants a container of water full of unknown worms allegedly drawn from the said borehole. Currently she said for fear of infections, the community abandoned the borehole and went back to the streams that have already been contaminated by cyanide as a result of flooding.
She claimed the community experienced some strange deaths few years ago and suspected the pollution of water bodies was the cause. “We complained the deaths to the company and they said we should take the bodies to the hospital to autopsy and bring the result. We could not do that because of the bills involved so we have to bury the bodies without being able to determine the cause of their deaths”, she said.
The communities she stressed are now living in fear. Madam Sampong also revealed that, the communities including Kantika of late have come under insects’ attacks including mosquitos. These insects increase in the communities she alleged was as a result of mining activities saying “the stagnant waters in the mining pits were breeding places for these stinging insects”.
She said the insects gave them sleepless nights however, in spite of the complaints to Newmont Company nothing has been done about it. Coupled with the insects attacks are frequent flooding and that the flood waters which are reportedly contaminated by cyanide run into their sources water. Cyanide is a mining chemical and is said to be very dangerous to human and animals health.
The company, the Assembly woman alleged was running away from its responsibilities to the communities after seizing hundreds of their farmlands. The communities are pre-dominantly farming communities and depended largely on food crops.
Currently, the Public Account Committee of Parliament (PAC) is considering setting up an investigation to unravel the circumstance that led to the government of Ghana granting Newmont Ghana Gold Limited 100% retention, a deal unheard of in the country.
The Kantinka Community members say Newmont is also concern about it profit at the expense of communities livelihoods. Kintanka is currently a dumping site for Newmont and that the noise from blasting alone is unbearable to them.
The Communications Officer for Newmont Ghana Gold Limited Mr. Agbeko Kwame Azumah however explained in an e-mail to this paper that the company was still holding dialogue with the community through the Resettlement Negotiation Committees made of representatives of the community to have all issues relating to the community critically looked at and work on and that the community would continue to be engaged to ensure that all issues are settled.
He however debunked claims by the community that the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation was dictating to the communities and was not opened or transparent in their financial transactions relating to the projects cost and that communities do not have a say.
From Left Mr. Agbeko K. Azumah and Mr Emmanuel Kuyole
From left Mr. Agbeko Azumah, Communications Director, Newmont Ghana Ltd and Emmanuel Kuyole, Regional Coordinator RWI. picture Francis Npong
The Communications officer also indicated that each of the 10 communities have representatives in the Sustainable Development Committee, a steering committee whose duties are to plan, and take decisions on what is to be done at which community and that the company do not have influence on the decision making processes of the committee.
On financial transparency, Mr. Azumah said the foundation publishes its annual and presents same to the Responsibility Forum which comprises about 50 member diverse stakeholder group representing all the 10 host communities. He said the 10 communities benefiting from the foundation regularly receive reports indicating how much is collected and spent and on which project at each beneficiary communities.