Withdraw Newmont’s lease to mine in Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve
February 03, 2010
Accra, Feb. 3, GNA – WACAM, a human rights and mining advocacy nongovernmental organisation, has called on the Government to withdraw the mining lease and permit given to Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) to destroy Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve for misconduct.

A release Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, signed said:  « WACAM is concerned that in spite of the clear evidence of NGGL’s gross misconduct on the specific cases of the cyanide spillage and discharge of faecal matter into rivers and Newmont’s corporate behaviour globally, the Company has been granted mining lease to mine in Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve. »

The release said: « The truth in the cyanide spillage by Newmont Ahafo Mine on October 8th 2009 has unfolded and Ghana has important lessons to learn from the cyanide spillage. The lessons are in respect of the attitude of the Company in the handling of the spillage; the efforts by the Company to cover up the spillage; the continued attempts by Newmont to take advantage of the weak mining regulations of Ghana; the important role of the civil society organisations including the media in holding mining companies accountable and the need to empower regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minerals Commission for effective regulation of mining companies. »

Quoting the Environmental Protection Agency Investigation Report on the cyanide spillage, the release said NGGL violated Sections 13.0(b) and 19.0 of the Environmental Permit issued on 25th April 2005, adding that « even though the Company was undertaking routine annual plant maintenance programme, activities leading to the spill could have been avoided. »

The EPA report said NGGL had been negligent in operating simultaneously the event pond, process water pond and the raw water pond without the presence of an employee and after the spillage the NGGL Environmental Manager was not immediately informed to give directions and this resulted in the Company not following sampling protocol immediately after the incident.

The Report said: « The volume of solution that entered the external environment could not be established and the quantity of 11m3 as solution spilled was incorrect, adding « the Company’s inability to inform the regulatory bodies and the downstream communities immediately after the incident was inappropriate, unacceptable and is tantamount to a cover up irrespective of the claim by the Company that the incident did not qualify to be reported as per its internal incident classification criteria. »

The EPA report recommended that « the Company must be directed to pay a fine for violating certain provisions of the environmental permit; deliberately holding information on the spill from EPA, till 10th October 2009, three days after the incident. The fine must be deterrent in nature to the Company and other players of the industry ».

EPA said NGGL must provide permanent potable and adequate water for communities affected by the spill and also submit to EPA its emergency response procedures and incident classification criteria for review in addition to conducting comprehensive studies on soils and or sediments within the operational area to trace the high sources of the metal concentrations.

WACAM commended EPA for revealing the operational lapses of Newmont Ahafo Mine and the Company’s attempt to cover up the spillage and gave high marks to the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) for setting the precedence on cyanide spillage with Newmont Ahafo Mine and the Media for the critical role they played in exposing the truth about the whole cyanide spillage saga..

WACAM said it has been humbled by the commendations and recognition it had received from broad sections of Ghanaians on its advocacy efforts with regards to the cyanide spillage of Newmont Ahafo Mine, which led to the imposition of a seven million Ghana Cedis fine on NGGL, and expressed its commitment to be part of the process in working to protect the sovereign rights of Ghanaians despite the challenges.

Newmont has been granted a mining lease and permit to mine in the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region. The mine will lead to the creation of a trench which would be 2.5 kilometres long; 900 metres wide and 500 metres deep.