WACAM Condemns the Shooting of Peaceful Demonstration by the Military and Police in Prestea

Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) Press Release -- 22nd June 2005

The news that the Military and the Police opened fire on demonstrators in Prestea and Himan who had embarked on peaceful demonstration to draw attention to the negative effects of the operations of Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) must be condemned as a barbaric act which undermines democratic governance and must be condemned by all democratic minded Ghanaians.

In the past, the people in Prestea and Himan had drawn attention in many ways to the negative effects of the operations of BGL since the company started mining in the area. For example, the intensity of blasting had cracked many buildings causing some of the building to collapse. Many of the residents of Prestea had their television sets, fridges, Video decks, DVDs broken and destroyed as a result of the intensity of the blasting which also caused air and noise pollution.

The dumping of mine waste had created many problems for the communities especially when mine waste dump had been created very close to the Prestea Government Hospital (about 30 metres from the hospital). The establishment of the waste dump very close to the Hospital and the effects on the Hospital compelled the Medical Director, Nurses and staff of the hospital to march to the company’s offices in Prestea early this year to protest to company officials about the effects of the mine waste dump on the hospital. The Prestea Government Hospital provides medical services to thousands of people in Prestea and the surrounding towns and villages. The mine waste has already covered a spring water source which is used by the Prestea Government Hospital.

The creation of mine pits and the dumping of waste in the communities had destroyed life forms and vegetation in the area.

Despite the numerous complaints of the people on the negative impacts of mining, nobody listened and resolved the problems until the communities decided to engage in a peaceful demonstration on the 13th of June 2005 in exercise of their constitutional right. One would have expected the police and the military to provide adequate protection to the demonstrators. Instead, the police and military being overzealous to protect the interest of the company opened fire on the demonstrators.

We wish to draw government’s attention to the many social conflicts that are developing in places of surface mining activities resulting from the neglect and insensitivity to the plight of mining communities. Bogoso Gold Limited is noted for its poor relations with mining communities and we wish to recall the insensitivity of the company to the effects of the cyanide spillage of 2004 on the people of Dumase and surrounding areas.

We do not think that the use of police and military against the legitimate struggles of affected mining communities could be a solution to the social, environmental and livelihood problems that mining companies are creating for mining communities.

We call on Parliament to take cognisance of the increasing conflicts in places of surface mining activities when discussing the mining bill so that we can have a mining law that provides adequate protection for the rights of mining communities and also provide mining communities with opportunities to seek redress of their grievances.

We call on government to institute an independent investigation into the shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Prestea on the 13th of June 2005 as a matter of urgency in the interest of good governance.

Daniel Owusu-Koranteng
(Executive Director - WACAM)