EARTHWORKS

Akyem

Ghana | Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve : Newmont

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Village of Yayaaso in eastern Ghana. The Akyem proposed mine would displace the entire village.
Photo: Ute Hausmann / FIAN

“We have been spending sleepless nights thinking about the trauma of relocation, loss of farmlands and livelihood, new diseases especially the upsurge in malaria cases as a result of the open pits and other stagnant pools of water in the open trenches that will be created in the area by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited."
- Akosua Nsia of Yayaaso,
a citizen in one of the communities in the direct footprint of the proposed Akyem mine
 

Potential Mining

Despite heated opposition from local communities, Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation began production in an open pit gold mine in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve in the Birim North District in the Eastern region of Ghana. The start of commercial production has created controversy among Parliament members, some of whom dispute the legality of the mine.

The mine occupies an area 1.65 miles long (2.6 km) and a half mile across (.8 km), and would create waste piles 60-100 m high. The mine would destroy an estimated 183 acres (74 ha) of forest in the reserve, threatening the Reserve's noted diverse wildlife and plant species, including several rare species of birds, amphibians, and mammals, and displacing the farming communities that live around the forest.

Although the mine is predicted to operate for only fifteen years, it would displace many members of surrounding communities.

Community Action

Newmont had long faced opposition to the mine. Community groups in the Akyem area, such as the Concerned Farmers Association at New Abriem, had stalled production several times. They gathered over 200 petition signatures to present to the Ghanaian government, arguing against:

Labor Controversy

In March 2013, 900 subcontracting workers held a violent protest, wielding guns and holding some Newmont employees hostage over a dispute over wages. The workers alleged that the severance they were offered at the end of their employment was far lower than the offer promised in their contracts.

Environmental Concerns

The Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve is one of the rare forest reserves in Ghana. Much remains unknown about the biodiversity of the area, but an unpublished study demonstrated that the reserve serves as an important habitat for several important species. These include a tree frog and a flying squirrel that are of serious conservation concern.

The Reserve is also critically important to farmers in the area. Its hills and forests promote rainfall and a steady water supply. Citizens are concerned about the impacts the mine could have on their water and the crops that the local communities rely on. Ghana's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed concern that the mine's waste rock dump would result in pollution that could have serious public safety implications.

Proving the immediacy of these threats, 3,000 fish were found dead at the Newmont Ghana Gold limited Ahafo Mine in January of 2012.

Newmont Faces International Scrutiny

Newmont has not yet adequately addressed the risks expressed by civil society groups. In 2008, the Center for Science in Public Participation and Earthworks revealed that the project did not plan to adequately line the waste storage areas or to reduce the threat of cyanide and other toxic acid mine drainage contamination. The company inadequately assessed impacts on biodiversity, and neglected to consider a smaller surface or underground mine for the project in order to destroy less land. When the company produced its Final Environmental Impact Statement, all of those issues remained a problem.

Despite the controversy, Newmont announced commercial production at Akyem in November 2013.


For more information:

References:

  1. Preliminary Report on Ajenjua Bepo and Mamang River Forest Reserves." Rapid Assessment Program Survey, Ghana, West Africa. 24 August - 4 September 2006. Unpublished report. Conservation International - Ghana.

Tagged with: newmont, mining, international, gold, ghana

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