Posted by: rumnet | April 6, 2010

Waste Rock Takes Over Farmlands and Communities

Waste Rock Takes Over Farmlands and Communities  


By Bernice Agyekwena    

Farmers in some mining communities in Ghana are being denied the right to cultivate their farmlands as a result of the activities of mining companies.  

Waste Rocks take over community farms

One such community is Teberibe in the Western Region whose case is currently being handled by a High Court in Tarkwa. The people of Teberibie did not only lose their farmlands and cocoa trees when  Anglo-gold Ashanti Limited decided to expand its  waste rock but their homes and properties as well since the community itself was grazed down to form part of the site for dumping their waste rock.    

One victim was Mr. James Sarpong, a farmer whose house was mowed down together with all his property in his absence. Mr. Sarpong, now without any property or farm has sought refuge at the Tarkwa office of WACAM where he is receiving support.    

In an interview with The Advocate in Tamale, Daniel Owusu Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, an advocacy NGO which provides support to communities affected by mining said the act constituted a human rights abuse. It is in this regard that WACAM, which engages in policy advocacy related to mining and also provides legal support to victims of human rights abuses, is assisting the victim to seek legal redress.    

Narrating the background to the incident, Mr Koranteng said the Teberibe Community, including Mr Sarpong decided to take legal action against Anglo-Gold Ashanti Limited  when the company starting dumping its waste rock on their farms without paying  compensation on the basis of the Mineral and Mining Act. The case was adjourned by a Tarkwa High Court  but Anglo-Gold Ashanti went to another High Court at Takoradi where they sought an eviction order against the community because they needed to expand the site for their waste rock. Immediately it was granted, the company went ahead and demolished the community buildings in the absence of Mr sarpong who could not retrieve any property.    

Another member of the community, Anthony Badu, was shot when he attempted to navigate his way to his farm amidst waste rock dumped by the company which blocked the route to their farms.    

Mr Koranteng said the route to the community farms had been prolonged by as much as nine kilometers following the dumping of waste rock on the paths leading to the farms so some farmers resorted to a detour around the rock waste to shorten their journey.    

The company perceived this action on the part of farmers as dangerous since they could be trapped by trucks dumping waste rock. Hence, it brought in soldiers to deter the farmers from using the short cuts.  Mr. Badu was shot one morning while on his way to the farm following some skirmishes between his community and the soldiers.    

According to him, Mr Badu was left unattended in a pool of blood for almost an hour before the company took him to the 37 military hospital following the intervention of WACAM where he was on admission for nine months.   

Mr Badu, now a cripple has lost his source of livelihood as a farmer since he can no longer farm. “We are working on his case and we want to make sure that we have adequate compensation for him”, Mr Kornteng said.   

Another case, involving a young man whose arm was blown off by dynamite abandoned in his community by a mining company has been put before the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). This followed the failure of the company to fulfill its promises of assistance to the victim following the accident.   

Mr Koranteng said “The unfortunate thing is that mining is competing for the same land as cocoa. At Kenyase which is a major cocoa growing area, Newmont is mining in the area and intends to mine so many places. They are pulling down cocoa trees and paying very little money to the farmers. Hence Kenyase, which used to export food ,is experiencing price hikes in food.”    

He described the situation as unfortunate since the contribution of agriculture to the economy supersedes that of gold. While mining deals with a non-renewable resource, agriculture deals with a renewable resource. If you plant a cocoa tree and it gets too old, you can cut and replant. Gold mining on the other hand is an enclave activity that stands on its own. There is no value addition.     

“In Ghana, most of our educated people were educated through the Cocoa Marketing Board scholarship. Thus, the farmer can use his cocoa farm to educate his children. How many people have been educated by gold? People built mighty houses out of the proceeds of cocoa which also constitutes a heirloom, with most children inheriting their parents cocoa farms”, Mr Koranteng said.    

 He attributed this to the fact that money derived from cocoa is retained in the country while that of gold is taken out of the country which constitutes a capital flight. Besides, cocoa does not degrade the environment while mining does.    

Mr. Koranteng said cocoa farms employ a lot of people but how many people can be employed by a mining company, especially, since people living in mining communities normally do not possess the kind of expertise required by mining companies.    

He said according to Professor Kassim Kassanga, a prominent Ghanaian valuer, a cocoa tree can yield half a bag of cocoa a year with the current price for a bag of cocoa being 150 Ghana cedis.    

“Even if you assume that each tree produces a quarter bag of cocoa beans over the tree’s economic life of fifty years out of its lifespan of about 100 years and a tree gives a farmer 20 Ghana cedis a year, if  you multiply that by fifty, you get about 1000 Ghana cedis. However, the mining companies pay less than10 Ghana cedis for each cocoa tree they cut down which is grossly inadequate”, Mr Koranteng said.



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