Farmers in the affected communities of the proposed Newmont Ghana Ahafo North project have expressed worry about what they describe as “machinations” by the mining company in the pre-production compensation procedures to cheat them.
The farmers claim Newmont is scheming to shortchange them by adopting exploitive steps of negotiation, therefore resolving to continue with agriculture rather than giving out their source of livelihood [farmlands] to a mining company without receiving a befitting compensation.
The over 600 aggrieved farmers are scattered in communities including Susuanso, Yamfo, Afrisipakrom, Tanoso and Terchire, all in the Tano North Municipality of the Ahafo Region. They cultivate wide range of crops such as cocoa, rice, oil palm, cassava and vegetables. Others are also into poultry production and aquaculture.
In an interview with the B&FT, Joseph Yaw Adu, leader of the concerned farmers said Newmont was embarking on farm parcel, land ownership survey and mapping. This he explained, was a way of denying farmers compensation for any project carried out on the lands after the survey and mapping exercises.
“Newmont has no right or whatsoever to determine when and where individual land owners should farm. We are aware that the company is yet to receive the requisite permits from regulatory bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and therefore unacceptable for the company to be ordering us around on our bonafide property,” he said.
A fish farmer, Eric John Bediako, on his part alleged that the company intends to be selective with the farms, crops and structures that they will compensate for. “We will resist any attempt to derive the people of their economic rights. Newmont Ghana can’t decide for us which crops and property are worth compensating for or not. If the company thinks it needs our land for mining, then it should be ready to pay for our valuables on site.”
Mining giant rejects farmers claim
Mr. Samuel Osei, Communications and External Relations, Ahafo Operations, Newmont Ghana denied any scheming to cheat the farmers, indicating that the introduction of the farm parcel and land ownership survey (FP & LOS) aims at collating data on farm/landowners and their farms within the company’s Ahafo North enclave as well as to provide maps for potential project affected people.
“Once this is done, it will help resolve all boundary disputes ahead of the project. Therefore, this exercise is an information gathering process to ensure potential land ownership disputes are resolved now so we can pay compensation promptly when the time comes. Newmont will begin the actual land acquisition process after securing the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) permit from the EPA,” he explained.
He noted that the company will continue to improve its land access processes by implementing lessons learned from previous projects to benefit all stakeholders, adding that Newmont Ghana is committed to paying equitable compensation to all project affected people.
“The company is committed to compensating owners fairly in accordance with the law and will not circumvent the process as this will be against our code of conduct and ethics. The company will respect and pay compensation for crops, land use deprivation, immovable properties and appropriately resettle or relocate eligible people. We will continue to create value for all our stakeholders and improve lives through sustainable and responsible mining,” he stressed.
Newmont Ahafo North Project
The Ahafo North project in the Tano North Municipality is estimated to generate an annual average production of 260,000 ounces. The project site is located at about 50km away from the Ahafo South mine. The yet to be operated mine will have expected lifespan of 13 years. The site contains about 3.38-million ounces of reserves.
The open pit mining site will cover about 4,000 hectares which will affecting many communities. The scope of the proposed project includes construction of a stand-alone Ore processing plant, and ancillary facilities and a water storage facility. The project will also involve the diversion of approximately a 9km stretch (between Afrisipakrom and Terchire) of the Kumasi-Sunyani highway.
The proposed Ahafo North project will be the second operating site of Newmont in the Ahafo enclave after the Ahafo South Mine at Kenyasi.