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Wacam wants investigations into deaths of 15 people in course of Newmont Ahafo Mine operations

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Wacam, human rights and mining advocacy nongovernmental organisation, has called on the government to investigate the causes of death of 15 persons in the course of the operations of Newmont Ghana Gold Ahafo Mine.

Government should also ensure that appropriate compensation is paid to the families of the victims.

A letter titled “REPORT ON HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS AND ACCIDENTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE OPERATIONS OF NEWMONT AHAFO MINE” signed by Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of Wacam, addressed to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and copied to GNA, alleged that the 15 died as a result of being drowned in poorly constructed dams of Newmont or knocked down by vehicles working for the Company.

Wacam said the 15 deaths its investigations revealed was only a small picture of a big safety and health risks associated with the operations of the Mine and added that it was sad to state that Newmont Ahafo Mine had been insensitive to these problems and had characterised the deaths as normal collaterals.

“Considering the safety, social, economic and cultural problems associated with the dams of Newmont Ahafo mine, we have cause to doubt whether the dams were constructed based on internationally accepted safety standards,” the letter stated.

Wacam said in 2006, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) provided a $125 million loan to Newmont to develop the Ahafo Mine and the IFC, promised to provide expertise and guidance to the Company to meet its social and environmental standards.

“Newmont Ahafo Mine is thus required to meet the IFC Performance Standard 4 on Community Health, Safety and Security, which states that clients of IFC including Newmont Ahafo Mine have the ‘responsibility to avoid or minimize the risks and impacts to community health, safety and security that may arise from project activities’.

“One of the stated objectives of the “IFC Performance Standard 4” is ‘avoid or minimize risks to and impacts on the health and safety of the local community during the project life cycle from both routine and non-routine circumstances.’

“Mining companies are required to operate in a way that would not undermine the health and safety of people living in the communities in which they operate. A safe mine is the hall mark of a responsible mining company. One of the stated core values of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (Ahafo mine) is “demand leadership in safety, stewardship of the environment and social responsibility”.

Wacam said: “Despite the proclaimed values of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and the requirement to meet the IFC Performance Standard 4,  WACAM is deeply worried about the increasing deaths, accidents, injuries, and health and safety risks associated with the operations of Newmont Ahafo Mine.

“There had been instances where community people got drowned and died in dams constructed by Newmont Ahafo Mine on rivers for its operations whilst many community people have died or suffered permanent injuries to their bodies when they were knocked down by vehicles belonging to Newmont Ahafo Mine or ancillary companies of Newmont.

“The dams constructed by Newmont Ahafo mine have created safety, economic and social problems for many communities. For example communities living around the dam constructed by Newmont Ahafo Mine on river Subri complained to the Company’s  Management that the dam had resulted in social exclusion by increasing the travelling distance to other communities.

The people stated that they do not feel safe because people had drowned in the dam and the blockage of the flow of river Subri by the dam has forced reptiles such as snakes including big pythons to invade their communities thus increasing the incidence of snake bites in the communities among other problems.

“The dams have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other flies. The communities have complained about increased malaria incidence and made allegations on the incidence of cases of buruli ulcer.

“The Concerned Farmers of Awonsu near Ntotroso also complained that they had experienced two floods from the Environmental Control Dam 2 (ECD 2) on 13th September 2007 when the company opened the spillway of the dam and 9th July 2010 which the company attributed to a heavy rainfall.

“Another important issue that relates to the health and safety of the people in Ntotroso and nearby communities is the “Boom Gate” of the company established on the haul road which crosses the Ntotroso – Kenyase road. The Boom Gate stops all vehicular and human movement when the Dump Trucks are moving on the Haul road and this causes the delay of vehicles conveying sick people referred from Gyedu Health Centre to Hwidiem Government Hospital on emergency through Kenyase.

“An important issue that affects the health and safety of communities in the catchment area of the company is the increasing rate of accidents involving Newmont Ahafo vehicles or ancillary companies of Newmont resulting in the death of people and causing serious injuries to the victims.”

Source: GNA

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