Statement by WACAM on the Cyanide Spillage by Bogoso Gold Limited

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM)
P. O. Box 558 Tarkwa
Tel 233 362 20137
P. O. Box c/o 1200 Tema
Tel 233 22 200585
email: [email protected]

23rd October 2004

WACAM wishes to bring to the public notice the cyanide spillage of Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), a Canadian company, which occurred on Saturday 23rd October 2004.

The spillage was from the new tailings dam of the company into river Aprepre and other rivers including Egya Nsiah, Benya and Manse. These rivers flow into the big river Ankobra.

The cyanide spillage has affected Dumase town, and other communities like Goloto, Juaben, Kokofu, Egyabroni etc.

Residents of Dumase and other villages found dead fishes, crabs, shrimps and other life forms floating on the river in the morning of 23rd October 2004. Some of the community people had harvested the dead fishes and eaten them before they had information about the spillage. This indicates that the company did not even know that the spillage had occurred.

The human rights violations and environmental problems of Bogoso Gold Limited have been a source of conflict between the communities and the company for a long time. We wish to recall that in 1991, there was a cyanide spillage by Billiton Bogoso Gold now Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL). According to the report of the Cyanide Investigative Committee set up in 2002 by the government of Ghana to investigate the Cyanide spillage of Goldfields Ghana Limited and other cyanide spillages, the committee did not obtain much information on the 1991 cyanide spillage of Billiton Bogoso Gold now Bogoso Gold Limited.

Already, the operations of Bogoso Gold Limited have resulted in the death of five rivers in Dumase and most of the communities in the area have no source of drinking water. For example, the boreholes constructed by the company for Dumase community turns blue-black when the water from the boreholes comes into contact with plantain and cassava. The boreholes were constructed for the community to replace the destruction of the five streams of the Dumase community by the operations of BGL. Other communities in the concession of the company perceive their rivers as polluted by the operations of the company.

Residents of some communities on the concession of BGL had to voluntarily abandon their cocoa farms and other properties and relocated to other communities because the company was insensitive to their complaints about cyanide spillages and the effects of the old tailings dam.

Ghana has recorded more than nine cyanide spillages since the liberalisation of the mining sector and WACAM expresses grave concern about the impact of such cyanide spillages on mining communities. Cyanide spillages affect community livelihood and have other socio-cultural effects on mining communities especially rural women. We must recognise that community lives are physically, economically, emotionally and spiritually bound to their rivers. Pollution of such water bodies through cyanide spillages means loss of income, loss of reliable source of proteins for rural people and communities get traumatised.

Unfortunately, there had been attempts by the mining industry and their allies to downplay the effects of cyanide spillages and to create the impression that because cyanide degrades with time, its effects last for only some few hours in rivers. This impression overlooks the long-term social, economic, psychological and the chemical pollution effects of cyanide spillages. Some of these effects are almost permanent and the nation is going to inherit these legacies after the mining boom is over. This has implication for the economy of the country and development in general.

The spate of cyanide spillages in Ghana is indicative of bad mining practices and WACAM calls on Parliament to take all these community issues into consideration when discussing the new mining bill that is going to be placed before Parliament very soon.

WACAM calls on government and the communities to hold Bogoso Gold Limited responsible for the impact of the cyanide spillage, which includes the loss of livelihood and loss of access to drinking water.

Daniel Owusu-Koranteng
Executive Director