By Harald Eraker
The Norwegian stock exchange registered mining company Mindex has, along with the Canadian company St. Jude Resources, the mineral-rights in the Hwini-Butre concession area in the south-western part of Ghana. Prospecting over the past years has resulted in promising gold finds in the three targets Dabokrom, Adoikrom, and the Father Brown Zone.
NorWatch visited the village Dabokrom one year ago. At that time, the population expressed concern about Mindex and St. Jude's mining plans, and complained that they were not informed about the activity of the companies.
- If the authorities simply give our land to the gold companies without providing adequately for us, we will fight back, said one of the inhabitants at that time (see NorWatch no. 15/97 and NorWatch no. 15/97).
Now the village population in Dabokrom has sent a protest letter to Mindex' head office in Norway, addressed to managing director Anders Hvide.
The letter expresses concerns and accusations against St. Jude, which is the operator of the activity that takes place in and around the village. According to the village population, prospecting activity has already caused devastation and created economic problems:
"We, the people of Dabokrom in the Ahanta West District of the Western Region of the Republic og Ghana, are aware that (St. Jude Resources) have already caused irreparable damage to our farms and cash crops, (and realizing) the meagre compensation (and often delayed) paid during the period of exploration as very dehumanizing", says the letter, which is signed by the allemblyman of the village council, the women's leader, and a representative of the youth.
- Even though St. Jude claims to pay twice as much compensation as recommended by the authorities, people do not think it is worth it. A coconut tree which produces fruit worth at least 15 dollars a year, is logged for 4 dollars, Muveta Donkris explains.
He is the leader of the environmental organisation Friends of the Nation in the Takoradi, a city about one hour's drive from Dabokrom.
"Even though they feel deceived by the mining companies, they do not know what to do. For example, people in the village had great expectations about employment in the mining company. But today only one of the eight who were employed by St. Jude when they came here, is still working for the company."
Muveta Donkris in the environmental organisation Friends of the Nation.
The protest letter expresses strong concerns about future mining. The people of Dabokrom fear that their rights will be "completely violated", that drinking water and air "will be polluted leading to serious health hazards", and that they will face problems of eviction which will lead to "loss of arable land in the future".
In the same way as expressed by the local population when NorWatch visited Dabokrom, their letter repeats their concerns that, in the future our children may not have "a place called their own".
Once again they complain that they do not get any information from St. Jude or Mindex about the companies' prospecting activities and planned mining.
- As far as we know, the local population has not been given any information about the companies' future plans, Donkris from Friends of the Nation confirms.
The letter to Anders Hvide also refers to Mindex' position as majority owner in the Hwini-Butre concession area, and demands, among other things, the following from the Norwegian company:
- to make sure that the problems addressed by the village population are examined.
- to instruct St. Jude Resources to consult the local population regarding all activity which affects their customary lands and farms.
- to inform the population about destruction of agricultural land in advance, to enable both parties to take part in the process of deciding what is lost.
- to make sure that necessary measures are taken to prevent future health problems related to the mining activity.
Finally, Mindex and St. Jude are encouraged to recognise the legal and customary rights of the village population, and to assess alternatives to open-cast mines.
"We were invited by the authorities to start mining in Ghana. If the local population does not accept this, we will have to use the Mining Act of the country to do our job."
Managing director Anders Hvide in Mindex ASA.
Managing director Anders Hvide in Mindex confirms that he recently received the protest letter from Dabokrom.
- I feel dejected about letters of this kind. Their concerns and accusations are very exaggerated, and show that they know very little about mining. They simply paint the devil on the wall, Hvide comments to NorWatch.
He denies that the prospecting activity has caused irreparable damage to the crops and land of the village population, and refers to the fact that they are employing modern and strict standards in their activity.
- For example, when it comes to the use of cyanide in the process of extraacting gold from the ore, we will make use of a closed system which removes the problem of pollution, Hvide explains.
He also rejects the concerns that people will have to move, and points to the fact that they pay compensation for the loss of fruit trees and crops.
- In fact, what frequently happens, is that new trees are planted precisely where we have given notice that we will start digging, says Hvide, who thinks that people in this way take advantage of the situation to get as much compensation as possible.
Hvide is unwilling to comment on the complaints of the amounts of compensation paid, and refers to the fact that Mindex bought its share of the project after the agreement on the prospecting phase had been negotiated by St. Jude.
- But when we start mining, there will be a new agreement. And who says we will only pay what is recommended by the authorities at that time, he asks.
Hvide also points out that there is a local conflict between two tribes in the area, and thinks that this is partly the reason for the complaints against the mining companies.
- It is true that there has been a land dispute between the chief and the people of Pretsia, where Dabokrom is situated, and those of Mpohor. Unfortunately St. Jude has only related to the people of Mpohor up to now. But in a recent meeting between St. Jude and people from Pretsia in which we also participated, St. Jude promised to relate to the people in Pretsia as well, says Donkris in Friends of the Nation.
"We, the people of Dabokrom in the Ahanta West District in the Western Region of Ghana, fear that our children in the future may not have a place to call their own."
From the protest letter to Mindex ASA.
Donkris emphasizes that people in Dabokrom have poor knowledge of geo-political questions and their own rights.
- Even though they feel deceived by the mining companies, they do not know what to do. For example, people in the village had great expectations about employment in the mining company. But today only one of the eight who were employed by St. Jude when they came here, is still working for the company, he says.
Friends of the Nation feels that there is a great need for a project which can help the local population to articulate their interests when confronted by foreign mining companies.
- People are not against mining activity as such. But they are dissatisfied with the poor compensation which the company has paid and will be paying to the farmers who are affected by the exploration activity and the planned mining, Donkris ascertains.
Anders Hvide in Mindex is clear about his view:
- We were invited by the government to start mining in Ghana. If the local population does not accept this, we will have to use the Mining Act of the country in order to do our job, he says.
Mindex in Ghana
The concession area Hwini-Butre, named after two rivers in the south-western part of Ghana, is owned 51% by the Norwegian stock exchange registered gold mining company Mindex through the Ghanian company Hwini-Butre Minerals Ltd. (which Mindex owns 100%). The Canadian St. Jude Resources Ltd. owns the remaining 49% of the concession area, and is the operator.
In the event of mining activity in the concession area, St. Jude has the option of buying up to 65%. The Ghanian state has the right of 10% ownership, while Mindex will be left with 25%.
According to the companies, they have made promising gold finds in the 80 square kilometre concession area, and they believe to be able to start mining in the form of open-cast mines around the turn of the century.
Norwatch Newsletter 22/98