WACAM, an NGO that assists communities adversely affected by gold mining, has called on government to develop a land use plan to prevent the granting of mining concessions in areas that constitute the food basket of the country.
It said gold production was inherently unsustainable and should not be allowed to destroy the capacity to feed the citizenry.
The call was made in a statement issued in Accra on Monday by Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, on complaints from the people of Donkro-Nkwanta in the Nkoranza South District of the Brong Ahafo Region on the intended Newmont mine in the area.
WACAM started working with the Donkro-Nkwanta Community in the early part of 2010, and started sensitising the community on the use of rights-based advocacy for the protection of the economic, social and cultural rights of the people.
Donkro-Nkwanta has a population of over 5,000 and WACAM’s work in the community revealed that it is an agrarian community.
The people depended on the production of food crops and vegetables as their main source of income which helps them to meet their social obligations including supporting their children’s education.
The area could be counted among the food baskets of the nation and the people produce mainly yam, maize, plantain, cassava and vegetables especially okro, cabbage, pepper and tomatoes.
The food crops and vegetables produced from Donkro-Nkwanta are transported to many parts of the country. Donkro-Nkwanta and its environs make substantial contribution to the agricultural production of the country.
According to the people of Donkro-Nkwanta, the community exported 480,000 bags of maize and 800,000 tubers of yams from the community to Accra and Kumasi from January to August 2011.
The people of Donkro-Nkwanta are deeply worried that extension of the operations of Newmont Ahafo Mine to the area would destroy their livelihood and the destruction of river Brensen which is the only river that the people in the area depend on.
Some of the farming communities which would be affected and displaced by the mining operations of Newmont Ahafo Mine in Donkro-Nkwanta include Nyamebekyere, Salamkrom, Akrugwa No. 1, Akrugwa No. 2, Enwase, Kyekyewere, Mampongline No. 1, Mampongline No 2, Beduase, Gyeduase No. 1, Gyeduase No. 2 and Anama.
An important reason for the people of Donkro-Nkwanta and its environs opposing the intended mining operations of Newmont is that their food crops like maize, plantain, yams and vegetables such as okro, pepper, cabbage, watermelon and tomatoes would not attract any significant compensation when Newmont Ahafo mine destroys them to establish the mine.
WACAM regards the Donkro-Nkwanta mining project as a controversial one and a flashpoint of conflict. In view of the food production capacity of Donkro-Nkwanta, it would be wrong for government to permit surface mining in Donkro-Nkwanta.
“The struggle of the people of Donkro-Nkwanta to protect their livelihood and their environment emphasises the urgent need for government to develop a land use plan to prevent the granting of mining concessions in areas that constitute the food basket of the country.
“Gold production is inherently unsustainable and it should not be allowed to destroy our capacity to feed ourselves.”
The people of Donkro-Nkwanta sent a petition dated 14th September 2010 to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources against the extension of the operations of Newmont Ahafo mine to Donkro-Nkwanta.
The Government has ratified the ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonisation of the Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining sector and the government gazetted it in November 2010.
The ECOWAS Directive on Mining contain provisions on the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) which relates to the right of indigenous people affected by big projects like mining to have adequate information on the positive and negative effects of a project and be free to take decisions including the right to say “no” to the project.
The right of the people of Donkro-Nkwanta to say “no” to the intended mining project of Newmont Ahafo mine should be respected by the government and Newmont Ahafo.
“WACAM wishes to express its solidarity with the genuine struggles of the people of Donkro-Nkwanta to protect their livelihoods and the environment,” the statement added.