Fish farmers battle Newmont over compensation packages

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An acrimonious relationship between mining companies and members of host communities, especially farmers over compensation for acquisition of land for mining purposes is a common feature in the country.

The absence of a clearly defined legislation covering compensation for the acquisition of land for mining has created a vacuum for speculative farming, inequalities and inefficient considerations, usually resulting in conflicts between affected farmers and mining companies in the country, and thus creating an unfriendly business environment.

Since Newmont Ahafo Mine started operation within the Ahafo enclave in 2006, it has faced and managed similar situations. It appears the issue of disagreement over compensation for land acquisition still lingers on within the Ahafo Mine area. A group of fish farmers at Kenyasi in the Asutifi North District of the Ahafo Region are up in arms against the company akin to the subject matter.

The fish farmers, numbering about 60, claim Newmont has given them a raw deal in offering compensation packages for the deprivation of their traditional livelihoods. They said the entire compensation process between the parties is “fraudulent” and a blatant infringement on the socioeconomic right of the local people.

According to the aggrieved fish farmers, the multinational mining company has offered to pay between GH¢900 to GH¢1,100 for a pond; taking into consideration factors like pond size and fish stock. They indicated that Newmont has capitalised on the ignorance of farmers as well as loopholes in existing legislations governing compensation for land acquisitions.

The Chairman of Kenyasi Fish Farmers Association, Daniel Baidoo, in an interview with B&FT said: “Newmont has skewed the whole compensation process to their interest, an affront to equity and future welfare of the farmers. The Company used its influence to manipulate valuers and surveyors who conducted the feasibility studies and valuation, and therefore we can’t accept the work of these induced-officials to determine our compensation packages.”

He appealed to the authorities to as a matter of urgency, intervene to ensure equitable and commensurable packages would be given to the farmers, amidst the deprivation of source of livelihoods. He added “anything short of that would plague the fish farmers and their dependents into doldrums of economic hardship.”

Responding to the fish farmers’ concerns, Samuel Osei, Communications and External Relations Manager, Newmont Ahafo Mine, in a statement denied any wrongdoing by the company, stressing that it acted in accordance with the law and best practices to arrive at fair compensation packages for the fish farmers.

He said: “The determination of compensation for the fish ponds was based on the size (area covered by each pond) and the state of the pond (filled with water and fishes or dry or just water) during the period of assessment by a team of professional valuers, signed off by the property owners, the Valuer (structure surveyor), Land Valuation Division (LVD) representatives and Resettlement Negotiation Committee representatives.

“The rates (cost per meter square) used to assess compensation due fish pond owners were agreed and signed off by the Resettlement Negotiation Committee (RNC) that includes a Professional chosen by the community to support them. During all these process, we did not receive any complaints from the owners.”

Mr. Osei added that as the company has done over the years, it will continue to offer fair compensation packages that aligns with the law and best practice as well as continue to engage in good-faith dialogue with stakeholders on its resettlement and compensation processes.

Commenting on the issue, the Fisheries Commission Officer in-charge of the Asufiti Area, Samuel Bawuah, advised the fish farmers to seek information from experts to inform such negotiations. “It’s important for farmers to seek assistance from the right sources, be it legal advice or fisheries experts to help in negotiations to derive good compensation.

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