Ottawa — The latest news of police shootings in Ghana on behalf of gold mining interests is a matter of urgent Canadian concern, according to Canadian mining industry watchdog MiningWatch Canada.
It has just been confirmed from Ghanaian news sources that nine people were shot and wounded by police on December 13th during demonstrations against massive layoffs at the Tarkwa mine of Goldfields Ghana Ltd. (Goldfields Ghana Ltd is 18.9% owned by Repadre Capital Corporation of Toronto (as the result of a merger with Golden Knight Resources Ltd.) and operated by majority owner Gold Fields Ltd. of South Africa.)
According to the Ghanaian Daily Graphic of December 15th, local people from the Tarkwa area were demonstrating against mass lay-offs of Goldfields Ghana Ltd. employees following the abandonment of its underground mine at Tarkwa when police intervened to disperse the demonstrators.
Goldfields Ghana Ltd. is shifting to open-pit cyanide heap-leach mining in order to reduce operating costs. According to the site manager, Ben van Wyk, a workforce of approximately 1500 people has been reduced to 500. Meanwhile, the Akoon Co-operative, a local small-scale miners' co-op, has been seeking to be allowed to operate the abandoned underground mine, which the company has already begun to flood.
"This is a matter of serious concern," said Joan Kuyek, MiningWatch Canada spokesperson. "We feel that the company has an obligation to ensure that its laid-off workers are treated fairly, and respond to their grievances."
The Canadian government has to answer for its trade policy as well, Kuyek adds. "The federal government has been promoting overseas investment by Canadian corporations with really marginal consideration of human rights, labour standards, and environmental protection. The Canadian government has been promoting foreign direct investment in Ghana directly as well as through other agencies like the IMF. If this is the result, then something has to change."
The Tarkwa area has already been the scene of conflict in recent years as villagers and small-scale miners are displaced by foreign-owned exploration and mining companies. According to MiningWatch Canada staff person Jamie Kneen, the problem goes beyond Goldfields Ghana Ltd.
"Most of the region is under mining concessions, including people's farms and villages, as well as forest reserves. We saw a lot of abuses of power, people suffering environmental contamination, having their farms destroyed or being pushed off their land for compensation amounts that are just laughable — or forced to accept inadequate resettlement packages," says Kneen, who recently visited Tarkwa and several of the nearby villages as one of four Canadians attending a conference on "Mining, Development and Social Conflicts in Africa" held by the Third World Network, an African NGO.
Goldfields Ghana Ltd. should be acting responsibly, says Kneen. "If its profitability is increasing so dramatically as a result of the change in operations, doesn't the company have some kind of obligation to share just a small amount of that wealth with the people it is displacing and laying off?
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For further information, contact:
Joan Kuyek, National Coordinator, or Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, tel. (613) 569-3439
We are four Canadians who have just returned from Ghana, from a conference on mining. While we were there we had the opportunity to visit two operating mines and two of the neighbouring communities.
We are outraged by what we have seen. In the Western Region of Ghana, communities have been expropriated, houses and schools destroyed, water supplies have been polluted, and people no longer have access to their crops and fields — all because of the uninhibited expansion of mining activities.
This situation is creating inestimable human suffering. As several Canadian-based companies are present in this area we are convinced that these companies, along with the Canadian government whose policies support their activities, must take responsibility for their actions.
We have signed the following statement, which was published in Ghana immediately following the conference, to say that it is imperative that the Canadian government and the Canadian people recognise their responsibility for this situation and contribute to resolving it.
- Bonnie Campbell, Montréal
- Ralph Hazleton, Ottawa
- Jamie Kneen, Ottawa
- Gary Kenny, Toronto
Statement Regarding Human Rights Abuses in the Tarkwa Mining District
Accra — November 18, 1999
We the undersigned who are from Australia, Canada England, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and United States, who are in Ghana to attend a conference on "Mining, Development, and Social Conflicts in Africa" and who share considerable collective experience concerning mining and its effects on communities, the environment, and sustainable development, have returned from a visit on November 17, 1999 to the Tarkwa mining district. We are so outraged and appalled by what we have seen that we have decided to publish a public statement.
We understand that recent policies to open Ghana's economy to gold exploration and producing mining companies have had the effect of attracting several companies from countries from which some of us also originate.
We had understood that the expansion of their operations has entailed taking over the land already settled by Ghanaian people and their families, notably in the Tarkwa area and has given rise to resettlement and/or relocation procedures.
During our visits to the two communities of Nkwanta-krom and Atuabo, we collectively observed situations which are an affront to human dignity and contravene the rights of people as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably Article 25, and the rights contained in the National Constitution of Ghana.
In both of the communities which we visited, we observed the following:
- Absence of access to clean drinking water
- Increased health hazards but still no access to proper health care
- Restricted access to lands for crop production for subsistence
- Absence of access to schools for children
- Absence of access routes leading to communities
A critical situation has arisen with severe human rights implications because none of the parties involved has taken responsibility for the consequences of their actions. These parties include:
- The mining companies present in the Tarkwa district and all their shareholders. The companies include but are not limited to:
- Goldfields Ghana Ltd. (South Africa)
- Golden Knight Resources (Canada)
- Ghanaian Australian Goldfields/Iduapriem
- Teberebie Goldfields (United States)
- Taylor Woodrow (England)
- Prestea Sankofa Gold (Canada)
- Birim Goldfields (Canada)
- Prestea Resources Ltd. (Canada)
- African Mining Services (Australia)
- The local administrative authorities and central government authorities directly connected with the mining sector such as:
- The Minerals Commission
- The Environmental Protection Agency
- The District Assemblies
- The Regional Security Councils
- The governments of the countries from which the mining companies originate because these governments should be monitoring their corporate behaviour.
It is our firm intention to make known the situation of the displaced people of the Tarkwa mining district in our respective countries.
We cannot leave Ghana without collectively imploring the institutions responsible in Ghana to recognise the critical implications for the lives of the people and the families affected and to immediately intervene so as to bring rapid, humane, and peaceful solutions, in keeping with the extremely favourable reputation of this country at the international level.
- Abu A. Brima Sierra Leone
- Aimée Boulanger USA
- Alexis Dembele Mali
- Andries Bezuidenhout South Africa
- Bonnie Campbell Canada
- Catalino L. Corpuz Jr. Philippines
- Gary Kenny Canada
- Gebreyohannes Habtezgi Ethiopia
- Glenn Lockitch Australia
- Jamie Kneen Canada
- Lemmy Owugah Nigeria
- Matthews Hlabane South Africa
- Ralph Hazleton Canada
- Roger Moody England
- Tundu A. Lissu Tanzania
Published in the Ghanaian Times, December 2, 1999