Ghana: Newmont Mining Corp. threatens Ajenjua Bepo Forest and neighbouring communities
The US-based Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the world’s largest producers of gold, has plans to place an open pit gold mine in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve in the Birim North District in the Eastern region of Ghana.
The organization No Dirty Gold informs that the projected mine would occupy an area 1.65 miles long (2.6 km) and a half mile across (0.8 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.
Mining is a short-term activity with long-term effects and when it takes place in forest zones, it is a factor of forest destruction and degradation from the prospecting phase –when routes of access are open, camps and auxiliary facilities are established, geophysical works are carried out— to the exploitation phase, with great elimination of vegetation that not only affects the habitat of hundreds of species but also the maintenance of a constant flow of water from the forests towards other ecosystems and urban centres.
A self-perpetuated dumping of acid toxic material is generated that can go on for hundreds or even thousands of years. Furthermore, the small particulates of heavy metals that with time separate from the waste, are disseminated by the wind, landing on the soil and in the beds of watercourses, slowly integrating the tissues of living organisms, such as fish.
Water is manifold affected: by the consequent erosion and silting produced by excavation, by the acid drainage that contaminate it, by the forest destruction that disturbs rainfall patterns.
The threatened Ajenjua Bepo forest is critically important to several neighbouring communities that fear the project may displace them or ruin the crops that they rely on. According to No Dirty Gold, community groups in the area “including the Concerned Farmers Association at New Abriem, have protested against Newmont’s mining plan and the inadequate compensation Newmont has offered for ruining their lands and livelihoods. They have gathered over 200 petition signatures to present to the Ghanaian government. ‘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,’ said Akosua Nsia of Yayaaso, one of the communities in the mine’s direct footprint area.” (1)
International support came from over 6000 signatures from more than 50 countries across the world “urging the Government of Ghana to resist any attraction to grant license to any mining company to undertake mining in the controversial Ajenua Bepo Forest or any other forest in the country.” (2)
The signatories denounce that permitting mining in the Ajenua Bepo Forest would displace over a thousand people from their homes and at least 8,000 people would lose their land. “The available information on the probable impacts of the mine indicate that the mine’s impacts on biodiversity, forest cover, water quality, and communities would be extremely serious. Over a quarter of the forest in the Reserve would be destroyed, as would habitat for many Endangered and Vulnerable species, and wastes and toxic chemicals would threaten the water supply. Thousands of people and important cultural sites would be displaced.”
The mining project comes at a time when a grim picture of mining impacts in Ghana has been exposed by Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in a report that found evidence of “widespread violations of human rights of individual members of communities and communities’ collective rights” and “widespread pollution of communities’ water sources, deprivation and loss of livelihoods.” (3)
(1) Akyem Proposed Mine, Ghana, No Dirty Gold, http://www.nodirtygold.org/ghanaakyem.cfm
(2) Ghana: 6,000 Signatures against Mining Concession, Selorm Amevor, Public Agenda, http://www.ghanaweb.com/public_agenda/article.php?ID=11743
(3) The State of Human Rights in Mining Communities in Ghana,