Investigate community claim of cyanide spillage – WACAM

WACAM, human rights and mining advocacy nongovernmental organisation (NGO), has called on the Government to investigate claims by residents of Dokyikrom-Tutuka that Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) has spilled cyanide into their source of drinking water.

Residents of Dokyikrom-Tutuka in the Asutifi District of the Brong-Ahafo Region on Thursday saw a number of dead fishes floating in the raw water dam at NGGL Ahafo Project site.

While the residents claimed that NGGL had spilled cyanide into the raw water dam at Dokyikrom, Tutuka near Kenyase, the Company has countered: “Newmont position is that some fishermen in the area applied chemicals when fishing in the river and probably caused the death of the fishes but the Company is investigating.”

A letter Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, signed on Saturday addressed to the Minister of Environment, Science and Technology and copied to the GNA said: “Communities such as Dokyikrom and other villages living around the dam constructed by Newmont Ahafo Mine on river Subri have blamed Newmont Ahafo Mine for another cyanide spillage from their tailings dam, which contains cyanide and other poisonous chemicals into the Subri river dam.

“According to people from the communities living around the Subri river dam generally described as Damso Communities, they saw many dead fishes floating on the river on the 6th of January 2011 and the offensive stench from the decomposed fishes indicated that the incident had occurred a few days before the communities detected it.”

The letter said: “Community activists have confirmed that dead fishes continue to float on the Subri river Dam days after the detection of the incident and after the Company’s officials have engaged in cleaning of dead fishes from the river.

It said: “Nana Owusu Prempeh, the Nkosuohene of Dokyikrom, who is by tradition the chief responsible for development, has expressed surprise that Newmont Ahafo Management is pushing the blame of the pollution of the Subri river dam on chemical fishing by the community people.

“According to Nana Owusu Prempeh, Subri river dam is very big with a circumference of about eight kilometres and it is unimaginable that any local person can afford to use the quantity of chemicals that could cause such great impact on aquatic life forms and cause the death of fishes at all parts of the dam continuously for several days.

“According to Nana Prempeh, the impact of the chemical pollutant was not localised to a small area of the Subri River Dam but covered the whole dam and since the water in the dam does not flow, it would require continuous discharge of pollutants to diffuse to all parts of the dam.”

WACAM said: “The tailings impoundment of the Ahafo Mine is contiguous to the Subri  river dam and the communities are of the strong opinion that cyanide and other pollutants had been discharged from the tailings impoundment into the Subri river dam.

Quoting an earlier Ghana News Agency report, WACAM faulted NGGL for rushing to the conclusion that the fish-kills was the result of chemical fishing carried out by the people, before it had finished investigations into the cause (s) of the death of the fishes.

The letter said: “WACAM is deeply worried about the attempt by Newmont Ahafo Mine to prejudge any investigations either by the Company or the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana. Our worry results from the fact that Newmont Ahafo Mine initially described the cyanide spillage of the Company in October 2009 as “a small overflow that was contained and neutralised”.

It said: “The strategy by mining companies to shift the blame of cyanide spillages on chemical fishing is not new. Indeed Newmont Ahafo Mine adopted this strategy as part of its attempt to cover up the October 2009 spillage.

“Newmont Ahafo Mine used this strategy of shifting the blame of the October 2009 cyanide spillage on chemical fishing in the report on the spillage it submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology titled “Process Overflow at Newmont Ahafo Mine”.

“In view of the above concerns, we are calling on the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology to set up a high powered committee to investigate the cause(s) of the death of fishes and life forms in the Subri river dam and the extent of damage,” WACAM said.

Source: GNA

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