Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) Ahafo mine has spilled cyanide from its processing plant at Kenyase into river Asunua which flows into river Subri. The spillage which occurred on the 8th of October 2009 was identified by community people when they found many dead fishes floating on their river. They then reported the incident to
officials of the company immediately.
Communities such as Kantinka, Afua Serwakrom, Norbertkrom, Kyeikrom, Bronikrom, Lawyerkrom, Kwamebourkrom have been affected by Newmont’s cyanide spillage as they have been deprived of access to potable water as well as economic, social, recreational and cultural benefits they derive from the river.
CEIA condemns this unfortunate incident which has resulted in the release of toxic chemicals especially cyanide species and heavy metals into the environment. The cyamide spillage of Newmont Aahfo mine has exposed the weaknesses in the internal quality control mechanism at Newmont Plant site and calls on EPA, Minerals Commission as well as Mines Inspectorate Division of the Mines Department to live up to their expectation in protecting vulnerable communities from the activities of mining companies.
CEIA is calling on EPA, Minerals Commission and the Mines Inspectorate Division of Mines Department to live up to their roles in sanctioning irresponsible behaviours from mining companies who negligently pollute communities’ source of drinking water and later turn around to say that it was an accident. From the results of our investigation, it was members of the affected communities who reported the incident to the company after they noticed dead fishes floating on the surface of the river. This has been corroborated by the Brong Ahafo Regional Director of EPA. What would have happened if residents in the affected communities had not acted responsibly by providing information on the spillage early enough to prevent nearby communities from eating the poisoned fishes and drinking the cyanide polluted water?
CEIA further commends the Brong Ahafo Regional Director of EPA for indicting Newmont Ghana Gold Limited Ahafo Mine for being negligent and not abiding by all the rules regarding safe storage and disposal of mine process solution which contains cyanide chemical species and other toxic chemicals such as heavy metals like copper, arsenic, manganese, iron, cadmium, cobalt, nickel just to mention a few.
CEIA disagrees with a press statement issued by Ms. Adiki, Regional Communications Manager of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited to the effect that cyanide concentration is only harmful to human beings if the concentration is 20mg/l or 20ppm. The impression being created by Ms. Adiki is scientifically not true. Assuming without admitting that the permissible level of cyanide species in water is 20ppm, then why should the World Health Organisation (WHO) set its permissible levels of free cyanide in water as 0.02ppm and Ghana EPA permissible level is 0.20ppm?
CEIA would like to know from the management of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited Ahafo mine as well as the scientist at the Environmental Health and Safety Department of the company if they subscribe to the statement made by Ms. Adiki that cyanide is only harmful if the concentration is 20ppm. If yes, do management and scientists at the Environmental Health and Safety Department of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited want Ghanaians and the whole world to believe that the WHO permissible level for free cyanide is not legitimate? Or is the company saying that when it comes to poor communities in developing countries such Ghana, they have set their own permissible guideline values for toxic chemicals they spill into the environment. CEIA is surprised that a big multinational mining company like Newmont could put up such dangerous scientific false information into the public domain to create the wrong impression that cyanide is not harmful and could be ingested even at such high doses. CEIA wishes to condemn Newmont for adopting a propagandist approach to dealing with scientific facts with serious health implications.
The truth of the matter is that process solution from mining companies that use cyanide in extracting gold ores contains three common different species of cyanide. These are the free cyanide which refers to the cyanide ion as well as HCN (hydrogen cyanide ions) in solution. This form of cyanide is very toxic. Oral ingestion of 1ppm of free cyanide in drinking water by human beings would kill the victim instantly. This explains why the WHO in setting safe limits of free cyanide ions in drinking recommends that the concentration of free cyanide in drinking
water should not exceed 0.02ppm.
The second most important cyanide species in mine process solution is the weak acid dissociable cyanide species. This is the cyanide species that reacts and forms complexes with metals such as copper, cadmium, zinc, nickel, arsenic, etc. At a pH range of 4.5 – 5.5 and in the presence of sunlight, the bond between the aforementioned metals and the cyanide ion breaks down thereby releasing the cyanide ions into solution. This poses significant health hazard to both human beings and aquatic organisms. The WHO permissible level for weak acid dissociable cyanide species in water is 0.6ppm.
The third most significant cyanide species in gold mining process solution is the total cyanide species. These are cyanide species that have formed complexes with heavy metals such as iron, platinum, gold, cobalt, etc. These complexes are quite stable and can persist in the environment for up to 25 years. The WHO permissible level for total cyanide species in drinking water is 1.0ppm
CEIA is worried about this development (cyanide spill) because if the scientists are covering up and deceiving the general public about the true effects of the chemical spillage then it stands to reason that it could compromise the level, scope and urgency of the remedial action that needs to be taken. This is because mining companies over the years have played technical games anytime cyanide spillage occurs in this country particularly when poor farmers are affected. In this way, mining companies have shirked their responsibilities associated with past and present spills.
The mining industry and regulators such as EPA claim that cyanide rapidly breaks down in water into harmless compounds, but this is only part of the cyanide story. The rest of the story is that cyanide also breaks down into compounds that are potentially toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. Many of these compounds are generally less toxic than the original cyanide, but may persist for long periods of time. And there is evidence that some of these compounds are stored, or bioaccumulate, in plant and fish tissue.
We urge Newmont Ghana in particular and all mining companies at large to ensure that their internal safety and quality control mechanisms are in place and working effectively to forestall recurrence of this unfortunate event regardless of the scale.
Mr. Chairman, members of the press gathered here, and ladies and gentlemen, we the members of the following communities; Tarkwa Banso, Teberebe, Prestea, Bondaye, Dumasi, Ayensukrom, Samahu, Bompieso, New Atuabo, Atta ne Atta, Huniso, Atwereboanda in the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality and Prestea Huni Valley District at a 2 day training workshop organized by Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA), Humanity Focus Foundation (HFF), Gender and Environmental Monitoring Advocates (GEMA), Pride in Youth (PRIY), Voluntary Help Organisation and International Centre for Environmental Governance and Development (ICEGAD) with financial support from STAR GHANA Results Initiative Fund called this press conference to address the following issues:
called this press conference to address the following issues on the impact of mining on our respective communities:
Pollution of water bodies in our communities as a result of mining operation. For example, a study conducted by CEIA and WACAM in 2008/9 revealed that out of 400 water bodies in Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality and Prestea Huni Valley District, 250 of them have high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, etc. For instance, in Bompieso community, the following water bodies have been destroyed; Kyirintasu, Akuokuo, Ayawa, and Nkokoaa. The study also revealed that mean levels of arsenic in water samples from Prestea Huni Valley District exceeded permissible guideline values of Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA), US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) by 198.4%, 19,840% and 19,840% respectively.
As a result of pollution of water bodies, we are now having acute water shortages in our communities such as Dumase, Twigya among others
There is also land degradation as a result of mining operations.
As a result of drinking from contaminated water bodies, we are suffering from a lot of mining related diseases such as black foot disease, hyper pigmentation, etc.
Human right abuses such as shooting of residents by security personnel’s of either mining companies or state security apparatus anytime we are exercising our constitutional right to demonstrate.
Mining companies pay low compensation or in some cases do not pay the necessary compensation as stipulated by the Minerals and Mining Act, Act 703 of 2006 for the destruction of crops and properties.
Blasting operations of mining companies leading to destructions of our buildings.
We wish to call on government, Parliament, Water Resources Commission that as a matter of urgency that they should review section 17 of the Minerals and Mining Act, Act 703 of 2006 which states inter alia that “Subject to a license by the Water Resources Commission a holder of a Mineral Right may for the purposes of or ancillary to mineral operations, obtain, divert, impound, convey and use water from a stream, underground reservoir or water course within the land subject to a mineral right” as a matter of urgency as it seems to empower mining companies to pollute water bodies.
We further call on government, Parliament, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Ministry of Environment to review section 109 of the Minerals and Mining Act, Act 703 of 2006 , which states that ”Except otherwise provided in this act, where a fine is imposed on a person under this act or regulations made under this act and failure to pay the fine, the amount shall be recoverable as a civil debt owed to the state”
EPA and minerals commissions should as a matter of urgency develop guideline to regulate blasting.
We further call on government of Ghana to strengthen the capacity of EPA and other regulatory agencies to strictly enforce all regulations governing mining operations in the country
Last but not the least; we also call on all stakeholders to explain the basis and to review the ground rent of 50 Ghana Pesewas, and to allow the Land Lords to negotiate with the mining companies with respect to the payment of annual ground rent.
Jointly signed by:
Humanity Focus Foundation (HFF)
Voluntary Help Organisation (VHO)
Gender and Environmental Monitoring Advocates (GEMA)
International Centre for Environmental Governance and Development (ICEGAD)
Pride in Youth (PRIY)
Members of communities in the communities.
The African continent faces many challenges including the inability of economic growth rates to deal with the numerous developmental challenges facing Africa. These constraints include the reduction of maternal health and infant mortality, access to clean and safe water and sanitation, development of infrastructure for dealing with solid waste and creation of employment opportunities for the youth.
As urbanization continues to take place in these countries, the management of solid waste is becoming a major public health and environmental concern in urban, peri – urban and rural communities. The same can be said of other developing countries within other continents. The concern is serious, particularly in the capital cities, which are often gateways to the countries for foreign diplomats, businessmen, and tourists. Poor visual appearance of these cities will have negative impacts on official and tourist visits as well as foreign investment.
Recognizing its importance, four Western African countries, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Nigeria which are immediate beneficiaries of the IWWA project have requested collaboration of external support agencies both bilateral and multilateral, in improving solid waste management in their cities in the last 20 years or so. Although some projects succeeded in providing lasting positive impacts on the management of solid waste in the recipient countries and cities, many failed to continue activities after the external support agencies ceased their support. This unsustainability of collaborative projects is due to various technical, financial, institutional, economic, and social constraints faced by both the recipient countries/cities and external support agencies.
Such constraints vary from country to country and from city to city, as the four immediate beneficiary countries; and cities, towns and communities within them differ in solid waste management problems. The external support agencies have different, and often limited, resources available to resolve the problems. Therefore, in order to ensure the sustainability of collaborative projects, the various constraints of both developing countries and external support agencies should be carefully examined and an approach be developed to remove such constraints within the context of the collaborative projects. Additionally, it is of utmost importance the empowerment of in African countries institutions in order lead national and international cooperation as stated in the Paris Declaration. This will lead to an harmonization of international cooperation initiatives with national priorities and avoid overlapping.
It is within this context that the Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis in conjunction with ZOOMLION Ghana Limited and College of Engineering, KNUST who are members of Integrated Waste Management in Western Africa (IWWA) consortium in Ghana organised a participatory workshop on 23rd March 2011 at Erata Hotel for sixty (60) participants involved in solid waste management in Ghana.
The purpose of the workshop was to discuss with relevant stakeholders in solid waste management in the target countries some of the constraints that affect effective implementation of solid waste policies in a sustainable manner. The workshops permitted stakeholders who had interest in the solid waste management change can to inputs into review of national policies as well as new initiative towards successful implementation of solid waste management. The participatory workshop also afforded members of the IWWA consortium to discuss some of the results that have been achieved so far during the implementation of the IWWA project.
Dr. Mensah leader for the KNUST IWWA team gave a brief overview of what IWWA is and how far it has been in existence including what they stand for. He said IWWA project involves four African countries namely: Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana. The programme can be said as an ECOWAS project with 19 consultiums in ten countries worldwide. Members of the project consortium are: Verein zur Forderung des Technologietransfers an der Hochschule Bremerhaven e. V. (TTZ – Germany), Bioazul S. L. (BIOAZUL – Spain), Eidgenoessische Materialpruefungs – Und Forschungsangstalt (EMPA – Switzerland), Sveriges Lantbruksunviervsitet (SLU – Sweden), Oko-Instutit e.V. – Institut fur angewandete Okologie (OEKO – Germany), Fundacion Gaiker (GAIKER – Spain), Technische Universitat Berlin (TUB – Germany), Enda Tiers Monde (ENDA – Senegal), Regional Council of Matam (MATAM – Senegal), Institut African de Gestion Urbaine (IAGU – Senegal), Zoomlion Ghana Limited (ZOOM – Ghana), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST – Ghana), Basel Convention Regional Co-ordinating Centre for Africa (BCRC – Nigeria), Environmental Law Research Institute (ELRI – Nigeria), University of Abobo Adjamé (UAA – Côte d’Ivoire), Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE – Egypt), Influential Inputs cc T/A Incando (INCANDO – South Africa) and Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA – Ghana).
The programme has been ongoing for about a year and half now. The IWWA Ghana has three consortiums namely: KNUST, Zoomlion and CEIA. In defining waste, he stated that there has been forms; the subjective and objective components in the definition. The subjective deals with what the owner declares as waste and the value of the particular material while the objective requires higher authority to be disposed off as waste. He added that, waste is intended to be disposed of by a functional authority.
He further went on to define Integrated Waste Management involves holistic approach to solid waste streams such as collections and treatment methods, environmental benefits, economic optimisation, social acceptability into a practical and sustainable system by designing continuously, improving and monitoring solid waste management for a community or region in a manner that renders it environmentally effective, economically affordable and socially acceptable. He also said that, finding means of dealing with waste that eventually ends up in our landfills is one of the aims of the waste management system. To conclude, the Waste Management Project is to reduce, reuse, recycle and dispose properly our waste. We as individuals must avoid a “throw away” mentality through Integrated Waste Management so as to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal 7 which requires countries to promote environmental sustainability.
Mr. Edward Antwi of the KNUST team presented the results so far achieved by the IWWA consortium members in Ghana. In his presentation, he made mention that, IWWA Ghana team members have been able to achieve the following; design of criteria for evaluation of the regional socio – economic situation and policy background (under this task members provided a methodological framework for the assessment of the living conditions, in these areas including demographics and social aspects - human population growth, poverty, urban and rural population), criteria for identification of relevant key stakeholders and criteria for evaluation of solid waste management practices; regional characterization and assessment of solid waste management situation in Ghana and the other target countries including evaluation of legal background, governance and socio – economic structure, mapping of current research on solid waste in target countries as well as detection of main barriers and obstacles for the implementation of integrated solid waste management.
There were three presentations on Integrated Sustainable Waste Management in Ghana which focused on Technical Challenges and Prospects; Institutional and Legal Constraints/Prospects and Socio- Economic Challenges and Prospects respectively. The participants went into groups where they thoroughly discussed the above presentation. At the end of the group work, the participants identified the following as factors affecting successful integrated solid waste management practices in Ghana:
Lack of spatial planning, improper/unstructured decentralized policies,
Financial constraints – delay in payment to Waste Management companies thus affecting their abilities to meet their obligations,
Weak enforcement of solid waste and sanitation laws,
Non – involvement of traditional authorities in waste management
Use of minors in disposal of waste.
Lack of experts to implement integrated sustainable waste management policies.
The participants offered the by following suggestion as a way of managing solid waste in a sustainable manner in Ghana:
Municipal/metropolitan/District Assemblies should adopt spatial planning in collection, disposal, recycling of solid waste. Also central government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development should ensure that there is full decentralization with regard to solid waste,
Municipal/metropolitan/district assemblies should devote substantial amount of their finances for solid waste management,
There should be strict enforcement of all laws on sanitation and solid waste management in Ghana by the law enforcing agencies,
Traditional Authorities in the past were noted to have successfully implemented integrated sustainable solid waste management policies as such their expertise should be tap.
The National Commission on Civic Education together with Ministry of Women’s and Children Affairs should design educational programmes on the needed for adults to supervised disposal of solid waste by minors.
Government should train more experts to be in – charge of solid waste management in the country
Forest plays multiple roles in our lives, including providing a source of livelihood, refuge for many species, and clean air for all. The importance of the forest cannot be over emphasized. Forests cover 31% of total land area while at the same time supporting 80% of terrestrial biodiversity that live in them. Many of the world’s most threatened and endangered animals live in these forests, making them crucial to sustaining ecosystems. Not only animals live in the forests, as they also provide a home to more than 300 million people worldwide.
As a resource, forest provides many important natural resources, such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants. Forests also help sustain the quality and availability of freshwater supplies. More than three quarters of the worlds’ accessible freshwater comes from forested catchments. Water quality declines with decreases in forest condition and cover, and natural hazards such as floods, landslides, and soil erosion have larger impacts. Some of the benefits from the forest are under listed before:
Climate change Mitigation It’s well known that forests play a key role in our battle against climate change; storing carbon and sucking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it into their biomass.
Regulate water quality: forest provide clean water by regulating water for many of the world’s rivers, they help secure water quality, and supply nearly half of the world’s largest cities from Caracas to New York. They also help decrease the impacts of storms and floods, whilst helping control erosion.
Biodiversity As the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, forests are home to more than half of terrestrial species, from the great apes to the smallest of creatures.
Economics and Livelihoods
They also provide homes, security and livelihoods for 60 million Indigenous peoples, whilst contributing to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide. The impact of forests reaches even further. In many developing countries more than 80% of total energy consumed by people and industry derives from forests, such as fuel wood and charcoal. Trade in timber and other forest products, is estimated at almost 330 billion US Dollars /year. Its value multiplies as its processed into a myriad of products used globally every day. Use of the genetic diversity within forest enables the development of new medicines; progress in healthcare and science.
Aside the benefits derived from the forest, there are a lot of challenges facing our forest and the rate at which the forest ecosystem is dwindling is very high. As a result of the growing global pollution levels forests have often come to be referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’. This is particularly because deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which forests would absorb if carefully managed. Forest faces deforestation from the reduction of forest cover through commercial logging, hunting of wood for fuel and fire and sometimes the forest get degraded.
Beyond supporting the natural habitat, forests sustain economic growth. In 2004 trade in forest products was estimated at $327 billion. Continued and uncontrolled deforestation therefore not only has devastating consequences for the environment, the wildlife and communities, but for economies around the world. Shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year. It is from this background that the World Environment Day (WED) being celebrated this year has chosen the theme, ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’, this was chosen to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, and in support of the UN international year of forest initiative.
For example, in Ghana the decline of biological resources has been evident by the turn of the century. For instance it has been estimated that the total forest cover of Ghana has reduced from 88,000 km2 in 1938 to between 15,800 km2 and 17,200 km2 at present. A study by the World Bank (2002) has revealed that Populations of wildlife species within the savannah have dwindled as a result of increased human and livestock populations, agricultural expansion, inappropriate farming practices, road construction, bush burning and deforestation. The reduction in forest cover has resulted in habitat loss which is important for the maintenance and protection of biological diversity.
CEIA wishes to use the occasion of world environment day to bring out some of the challenges facing our forest in terms of proper management, control of deforestation and degradation.
As we celebrate of this day, we wish to state that, we are unhappy about government engaging in policy contradictions and violating national laws, visions and regulations and demand that government should as a matter of urgency revoke the mining right granted to all mining companies in the country to mine in forest reserves. For example, as we speak now, government has granted mining right to Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and SAVACEM respectively to mine gold in the Adjenua Bepo Forest Reserve and Limestone in the Yokumbra Forest Reserve near Buipe respectively.
We further call on government to stop granting exploration rights to companies in the country within protected areas. For example, government has also granted mining exploration right to Azuma mining company to explore for gold near the Mole National Park.
Mining in forest reserves contravenes certain provisions in the National Land Policy developed by the Ministry of Mines, Lands and Natural Resources in 1999. Section 4.5(a) of the National Land Policy states that, “To ensure the conservation of environmental quality, no land with primary forest cover will be cleared for the purpose of establishing a forest or tree crop plantation or mining activity”. The National Land Policy of 1999 states further in Section 4.4(b) that,
“All lands declared as forest reserves , strict nature reserves , national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and similar land categories constitute Ghana’s permanent forest reserves and wildlife estates , and are ‘fully protected’ for ecosystem maintenance , biodiversity conservation and sustainable timber production”.
Again we wish to question the ability of mining companies’ ability to rehabilitate mined off reserves according to best practices suitable to tropical forests.
We call on government to halt attempts to de - gazette portions of Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBA) in the Western Region in particular and other areas of the in general for logging.
We are of the firm believe that, when government halts its policy contradictory actions such as granting of permits to mine in forest reserves, de – gazetting of Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas as well as promoting massive afforestation, together enacting and enforcement of relevant laws to regulate the sector, we will be able as a nation to enjoy the full benefits of our forest resource.
Long Live Ghana !!!!, Save our Forest for Posterity!!!!!