The on-going shake-up within Ghana’s natural resources sector is now peaking, with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) much more emboldened to demand accountability of entities operating within that area. Accordingly, Newmont Ghana has been taken to task on its assertion that it is “committed to transparent processes in engaging and partnering local communities to improve lives and mitigate impacts associated with its operations in Ghana.”
Led by the Kasa Initiative, the country’s CSOs in natural resources and environment, have challenged Newmont Ghana to live up to its claim by making public, reports of actual monitoring, “in line with provisions of international protocols that the company has subscribed to such as ‘The Free Prior Informed Consent’,”
It, among other things, calls for the consultation of a local community before the start of any development, and is underpinned by the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy or use.
Newmont Ghana is one of the mining firms with prime concessions in Ghana’s Brong-Ahafo and Eastern regions. Its assertion of commitment to transparency was contained in a Ghana News Agency (GNA) publication dated February 13, 2017. The publication focused on the response by Newmont Ghana’s Senior Director of Sustainability and External Relations, Paul Sowley, to media reportage on the recent launch of two Reports by WACAM with support from the Ford Foundation.
The research based reports are: “Assessing the social and economic effects of mining on women affected by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited’s operations” and “Exposure to toxicants in environmental contaminants within Newmont Ghana Gold Limited – Ahafo Mine: Human health risk assessment approach”.
The GNA publication quotes Mr. Sowley as saying, “We are currently studying the accuracy of the reports… Our review will include following up with the Reports’ authors to better understand their data collection, analysis and assessment methods, which seem to lack the scientific rigour to support their conclusion.”
In a press release dated March 28, 2017, Kasa queried Newmont Ghana’s response and considered it as an attack. The press release described it as a “quick and unprofessional… because they had not taken adequate time and pain to study the findings made in the report before attacking the results and methodology.”
The press release was co-signed by Kasa’s Coordinator, Kwame Mensah, and WACAM’s Associate Executive Director, Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng. It stated: “If Newmont Ghana is in doubt of the rigour of the methodology and analysis, we are proposing an independent research on the same issues with protocols jointly determined by the parties.”
It further challenged Newmont Ghana “to make your ground water monitoring data available to the public, so as to keep the public informed of your own monitoring information. These are some of the actions that will make your company as transparent as you claim to the media.”
Kasa also considered Newmont Ghana’s stance as denial, which according to the press release, “is one of the foremost strategy used by mining companies to rebuff adverse findings resulting from their actions.” It noted that that since Newmont Ghana is currently studying the report, “… it is strange that without studying the report, they criticise the report,” an action the press release has described as, “obviously another strategy used by mining companies to refuse to take responsibility for their actions.”
The press release again stated: “an honest and transparent approach would have been for Newmont Ghana to study the report and verify the findings before concluding that the report lacks scientific rigour.”
It said the Reports revealed that “43% of the parameters measured in the study area were found to be below the detection limit of 10ug/L respectively for Arsenic, Mercury, Manganese, Lead and Cadmium, and were all found to be below the World Health Organisation (WHO) permissible guideline values.
However, 57% of the parameters in the research area were found to be above WHO guideline values for Arsenic, Manganese and Cadmium, confirming Newmont Ghana’s own prediction that its operations will have impact on groundwater resources. The press release cited the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared at the time of the launched of Phase 1 of the programme in February 2005, as stating that “quality of groundwater in the project area could be adversely affected by the waste rock disposal facilities, tailing storage facility, ore stockpiles, process water pond, mine pits, septic systems, and landfill”.
The press release also mentioned that Newmont Ghana’s operations have resulted in the loss of a total of 6,907 farm fields in the Ahafo Mine area, which has affected 823 households.
The press release acknowledged the company’s efforts in implementing “its social and economic obligations under the Environmental Impact Statement, which was one of the bases for the approval of your mines operations.”
But declared that: “Ghana Government indirectly bears the cost of Newmont Ghana’s corporate social responsibility project, because the cost of the corporate social responsibility projects are counted as part of the company’s operational cost which is tax deductible and this reduces the amount of tax the company pays to government of Ghana.”
The press release highlighted that: “Newmont Ghana per its agreement with government of Ghana is not paying Property tax to the Asutifi North District Assembly.” It said the payment of this tax could have been used by the Assembly to finance some of the infrastructural development projects or provide social amenities in the district.
It asserted that, “in effect, Newmont Ghana is taking credit for these social obligations which in reality, should be attributed to the government of Ghana. It is also important for the public to appreciate the fact that social amenities provided by Newmont Ghana are meant to replace the destruction their operations had caused to existing community infrastructure and systems such as communities’ water sources, schools, livelihoods and resettlement.”
It added, “They are not charities being doled out by Newmont Ghana to communities.”
By Ama Kudom-Agyemang in Accra, Ghana