FIAN International – 2008-05-08 22:28:53
Ghana Announces Discontinuation of Military Protection for Mining Companies.
Presentation at UN Human Rights Council Highlights Rights of Mining Communities
HEIDELBERG (May 6, 2008) — Human rights violations in communities affected by mining have featured prominently during Monday’s discussion of the report submitted by Ghana to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. In his introductory statement, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ghana, Mr. Joe Ghartey, reacted extensively to issues raised in a report submitted by FIAN International and the Ghanaian grassroots organisation WACAM.
This report emphasized that the expansion of mining operations and the related deployment of the military and police to the mining areas has led to serious human rights violations in many mining communities in Ghana. Underlying these human rights violations is the conflict over access to and control over natural resources like land and water between local communities and multinational mining companies.
In his introductory statement Minister Ghartey said the following: “It is true that at a certain point, joint military and police teams were protecting mining companies driving away illegal miners, but that was a short term measure and we have reviewed it and we don’t intend to continue it.”
FIAN welcomes this announcement and will continue to monitor the deployment of military and police to the mining areas. FIAN, however, objects to the impression given by Minister Ghartey that conflict between security personnel and civilians is restricted to the issue of illegal mining. Victims of human rights violations by military and police include small-scale miners but also farmers who are denied their access to farmland or whose crops and fish ponds are destroyed.
FIAN also objects to the statement by Minister Ghartey suggesting that rights of mining agencies are to be respected on an equal level as rights of vulnerable groups. Farmers displaced by mining belong to the most vulnerable and disempowered groups in Ghana. It is the obligation of the state to protect their human right to food, water and health no matter what economic interests are involved.
In addition, the state as well as mining companies should respect the right to free prior and informed consent of communities to mining on their lands. In the specific case of the proposed Akyem gold mine in Ghana which Newmont is seeking a permit to operate, FIAN supports the call by local communities on the government not to permit mining in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve.
In order to demonstrate respect for the human rights of the mining communities in Ghana, FIAN is calling on the responsible state institutions to ensure that further human rights violations will be prevented and that perpetrators acting on behalf of the state or private companies are prosecuted. FIAN hopes that the report by Ghanas Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on human rights violations in mining communities in the country as disclosed by its deputy commissioner Richard A. Quayson during the hearing will be released shortly.
FIAN regrets that the Ghanaian delegation failed to respond to the questions posed by Germany and Brazil on the effects of large-scale mining on community’s access to land and water. Brazil specifically asked about the effects on the right to health in the context of water pollution and cyanide spills and about the steps taken by the Ghanaian government to promote access to drinking water.
Only last week, AngloGold Ashanti officially confirmed the findings of a research done by FIAN on untreated waste water including raw faecal matter being discharged from its staff bungalows at the Iduapriem mine into streams which serve as sources of drinking water for villages in the area.
Another negative example is Bogoso Gold Limited, a subsidiary of Golden Star Resources which is currently forcing the expansion of its mining operations in Ghana, and which is responsible for numerous cyanide spills.
The FoodFirst Information & Action Network (FIAN) is an international human rights organisation for the human right to feed oneself, enjoying consultative status with the ECOSOC. WACAM is a Ghanaian non-governmental organisation supporting communities affected by mining.
Further Information & Resources:
Introductory statement by Minister Ghartey (minutes 26-29), to be accessed via the webcast archive of statements made by delegation of Ghana at the UN Human Rights Council on May 5th 2008:
• FIAN-WACAM report “Human Rights violations in the context of large-scale mining operations”: http://www.fian.org/resources/documents/others/mining-related-human-rights-violations-ghana/pdf
• AngloGold Ashanti Media Release – Iduapriem Environmental Issues, 28 April 2008:
FIAN is an international human rights organization that since more than 20 years advocates for the realization of the right to food. FIAN consists of national sections and individual members in over 50 countries around the world. www.fian.org
• Mike Anane, FIAN Ghana – firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: +49-175-5098767 (until May 8th); +233-244656632 (from May 9th)
• Ute Hausmann, FIAN Germany – email@example.com ; Phone +49-221-7020072