On October 16, 2001, a tailings dam burst at the Tarkwa gold mine in the Wassa West District of Ghana sending thousands of cubic meters of mine waste into the Asuman River and contaminating it with cyanide and heavy metals. The Tarkwa mine is operated by Gold Fields Ghana, a South African gold mining company. The disaster left more than one thousand people without access to drinking water. Virtually all life forms in the river and its tributary were killed. Hundreds of dead fish, crabs, and birds lay on the banks of the river and floated to the surface.
The farming community of Sansu in the Ashanti region of Ghana is located in the heart of the Obuasi mining concession operated by the Anglogold Ashanti (AGA), formerly the Ashanti Goldfields Company (AGC). Sansu has a long history of artisanal mining, which served as an economic activity for youth in the community long before AGC began large-scale, open-pit mining in the area in the early 1980s.
The Ahafo gold mine, Newmont's first mine in Ghana, has been implicated in human rights abuses and irresponsible practices since before it began operating in 2006. The mine is located in a farming region northwest of the country's capital Accra and has caused major displacement and social impacts.
In October, 2009, a cyanide spill occurred at the Ahafo mine that killed a large number of fish and threatened the water of local communities. A Ghanaian Ministerial Panel that evaluated the spill and its aftermath recommended that the company be fined $4.9 million for failing to prevent the spill or to properly report on and investigate the spill.
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 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.
Youth Demonstrating at Yayaso
Photo: Ghana Chronicle
Wikileaks recently released a new batch of cables that expose Denver-based Newmont Mining’s negligence before and after a cyanide spill at their Ahafo gold mine on October 8 2009. The cables reveal that Government of Ghana went as far as to accuse Newmont of an attempted cover up, and criticize the company for a series of “blunders” following the spill.
What does this mean for Newmont, which is looking to push through another major mine in Ghana?
Colorado-based Newmont Mining announced today that they have approved funding to develop the Akyem gold mine project in Eastern Ghana. This destructive mine project would create an open-pit in a Forest Reserve, threaten water sources, and displace around nine thousand people from their homes, lands, or livelihoods.
Communities in Ghana have expressed great concern about the Akyem project, and their concerns have already stalled the mine project several times. WACAM and other community groups have protested over the company's plan to mine in a Forest Reserve, potential impacts on water supply, loss of access to land, and inadequate compensation plans for displaced communities. Newmont has already displaced some community members. In total, over a thousand people would lose their lands and homes, and thousands more would lose their agricultural lands. The mine would destroy approximately 340 acres (140 ha) of tropical forest and a quarter of the forest left in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve. In 2009, the project gained notoriety when it caused Newmont to receive the Public Eye Award for irresponsible practices.
Accra, Cologne and Washington, DC, 14 August 2008-- Environmental and human rights organizations from 3 continents have criticized plans by Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation to develop an open-pit gold mine in a Forest Reserve in Ghana. The groups today released expert reviews of the technical aspects of the mine project that document deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The expert reviews point to major gaps in the EIS regarding reclamation plans, the potential for acid drainage, risks of water contamination with heavy metals and cyanide, as well as impacts on biodiversity.