Politics of Poverty

A community challenges a mining company in Ghana, and wins!

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Children play on mining rock waste dump in Dormaa Kantinka, Ghana. (Photo: Wacam, 2017)

Oxfam supports a community to secure their rights after being displaced by a mining operation.

This post was written by Francis Agbere, Extractive Industries Programme & Campaigns Manager for Oxfam in Ghana.

The scale of justice was tipped in favor of 23 residents of the mining-affected community of Dormaa Kantinka in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana when Accra High Court (Human Rights Division) ruled last July that the minister for lands and natural resources should intervene to support their resettlement. People living in nearby communities were displaced by the extension of Newmont (GH) Ltd’s Ahafo mine, a 2014 gold mining concession which required resettlement of affected occupants and landowners. This is one of many adversities that befall thousands of others across many mining communities in Ghana.

As I write this piece, many affected communities are contending with rights violations without hope for appropriate redress; a situation I have witnessed working in the extractives and land sector over the past five years and more recently on this particular case. Four years ago when Newmont began expansion of its Ahafo concession, it initiated efforts to resettle affected persons in accordance with Ghana’s statutes. Records show that Newmont compensated 14 people through monetary compensation but indications are that they were given amounts as low as US$112 – which is less than a quarter of the current price of an ounce of gold. They also show the company failed to resettle 23 people, claiming they were not eligible. Attempts were made by those affected to resolve the resettlement matter with the company but nothing positive came of it. Regardless, community members kept high spirits. They knew their rights – and that they could assert them to protect their lands, livelihoods, and general respect for their right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC).

Fortunately, Oxfam-supported partners, Wacam and the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), who have been standing up for the rights of mining communities for years helped to elevate their voices, before their hope was lost. The partners filed a lawsuit at Ghana’s Human Rights court in 2017 invoking the activation of Ghana’s law on resettlement and ultimately, appropriate redress for affected community members. The court ruled in favour of the community and thus directed the minister in charge of mining to help settle the disagreements between Newmont and the surrounding communities.

In compliance with the court order, the minister acted five months ago and thankfully, in favor of the people of Dormaa Kantinka.  His efforts, following a petition by Oxfam partners to make a good and fair deal for the community members, revealed a lot to be happy about. He directed Newmont to pay for temporary accommodation for the 23 affected persons for a period of six months and to subsequently build permanent places of residence for them within the next six months. This is victory for those whose voices are often silenced in mining communities and for thousands across the world who suffer similar fates and circumstances. It also lends credence to Oxfam’s current campaign in Ghana for a Mineral Revenue Management Act. In this campaign, Oxfam and partners are demanding that the government effectively track, deploy, and invest mining revenues as is being done for the petroleum sector through the Petroleum Revenue Management Act. The bottom line here is: pass a Mineral Revenue Management Law to give back to mining communities a fair share of all the mining revenues.

At this point, the next biggest test for the people of Dormaa Kantinka, CEPIL, and Wacam is to be sure Newmont lives up to what it has been directed to do and that communities live up to expectations of vacating the concession as they await their compensation. Oxfam will be trying to support and play the role of a connector between the company and communities. This is important work and we will continue standing with communities like Dormaa Kantinka to demand and secure their rights.

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