Nelly Bassily | April 7, 2008
The glitter of gold holds no appeal for a group of farmers living near a proposed mine in Ghana’s Eastern Region. They are more concerned with the cocoa, palm, and citrus crops that grow on their plantations.
A mining company called Newmont Gold Ghana Limited recently secured a government permit to operate in a forest reserve. They plan to invest more than half-a-billion American dollars (more than 300 million Euros) to develop the country’s largest strip mine.
Most of the proposed mining activity would take place in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve. According to company plans, 74 hectares of forest would be destroyed to dig the mine and accommodate the pile of materials removed from the ground. An unknown number of nearby households would be displaced, and farmland taken over by the company.
More than 200 farmers have banded together to oppose the mine. They signed a petition calling on the government to withdraw the company’s permit. The farmers say that the forest improves rainfall in the area. By removing trees, the mining company will disrupt local weather patterns, they argue. The group fears that their crops will suffer.
In the petition, the farmers also cited concerns that they would not be well compensated for their land. Some cocoa plantations were purchased by the company while it researched the area’s mining potential. According to the petitioners, these farmers were paid less for their land than they could earn in one year of cocoa production.
Robin Budden is General Manager of Environment and Social Responsibility for Newmont’s proposed new mine. He says the mining company has not completed negotiations with the communities that will be affected by the project. Mr. Budden also suggested that farmers should ensure they are well represented in these negotiations.
Newmont Gold Ghana Limited already operates a gold mine in the Brong-Ahafo Region. In the first phase of this mining operation, the company relocated 10,000 people, most of whom were small-scale farmers. Alongside mining operations, the company supports various projects aimed at restoring the livelihoods of displaced people.