18 April 2008

Ghana: Anglogold Ashanti Accused of Discharging Sewage Into River

Accra — Anglogold Ashanti Iduapriem in the Western Region has been accused of discharging raw sewage (faeces, urine and condoms) from their bungalows into the streams and rivers which serve as the source of drinking water for the host communities.

The communities affected by the pollution, which include Teberebie and surrounding settlements, revealed that the stench that emanates from the streams alerted them to conduct an investigation after which they realized it came from the company's bungalows at Mile 5 and 6.

The Chief of Adeza krom (an affected community), Nana Awuley said at a press conference they were compelled to seek technical assistance from Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), whose Coordinator, Mr. Mike Annane took keen interest in the matter and embarked on a fact-finding mission to help them unravel the source of pollution.

A sample was taken to the Water Research Institute (an agency under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for examination, which report confirmed the pollution.

The report indicated that "The effluents from the pipes at Mile 5 and Mile 6 (bungalows and offices) supplied for analyses were not bacteriologically safe to be discharged into the environment, since they are heavily contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms,

"It is important for these effluents to receive pre-treatment before discharging them to the environment, in their current state; they can only be used to irrigate crops, sports fields, public parks and trees but not crops likely to be eaten uncooked. They should not be exposure of these effluents to humans", the report said.

"We are a predominantly farming communities and anytime we go to the farm our only source of drinking water is the rivers around. But the company has channeled its waste disposal pipelines into our farms, thus polluting the streams with toilets, urine, etc," Nana Awuley revealed.

According to the Chief, the company in acknowledging that it has destroyed the streams and rivers has warned them not to use water from the various streams and rivers for domestic chores.

The Chief indicated that because of the destruction of the rivers and streams, many fishes have been killed and this has made it difficult for them to afford fish for their meals since they have to travel all the way to Tarkwa to purchase fish.

He pleaded with the officials of the IFC to pay a working visit to the town to have first hand information on the abuses being meted out on them by the company.

Touching on other issues, Barimah Ofosu Asare of Mile 7 said, the presence of the Company has rather brought untold hardships to the people since they took away all their farm lands.

He indicated that the company promised relocating them after taking over their lands but after relocating some of the indigenes, they stopped with the reason that there were no more lands.

According to Barimah Asare since the company commenced, its operations some years ago, they have to walk about eight kilometers a day to their farms which hitherto were just a stone throw from their houses.

"We have to pay between GHP50 and GHC1 as taxi fares anytime we are visiting our farms and since we only depend on the sale of our foodstuffs for survival it is really difficult to part with such an amount," he added.

He indicated that the embarrassing part of their plight is the fact that they are searched by the security of the company anytime they are going to their farms and even on some occasions they give them some of their foodstuffs as bribe.

In addition, the nearness of their waste disposal site to the communities has led to the increase in dust and this led to an increase in Tuberculosis (TB) cases in many parts of the communities.

Barimah Asare however acknowledged that since the company began its operations they have been provided with a borehole, electricity, KVIP and GHC50 as loans to the farmers and traders to enable them expand their business.

On the issue of the loans, he said that the last time they were given loans was four years ago and indicated that although it was a good initiative the delay in the disbursement process makes the loan quite irrelevant since in some cases the farming season passes before the loans are disbursed.

In a statement, the FIAN Coordinator, Mr. Mike Annane, bemoaned the practices of the company and called on the government to set up an independent body to investigate the issues raised by the communities.

"An environmental audit is necessary so that the Teberebie community can know how the mine has impacted water quality," he said.

Mr. Annane indicated that the dumping of waste rock close to the communities' has the possibility of causing acid drainage in the area and this has the potential of affecting the quality of both groundwater and surface water.

However the Head of Community Relations and Public Relations of the company, Mr. Kwamena Sekyi-Yorke had refuted the allegations.

According to him, they have an Environmental Health and Safety Department and a monitoring team which has FIAN as a member responsible for issues concerning the environment.

Mr. Sekyi-Yorke said it is not the practice of the company to discharge sewage into rivers but rather all their bungalows have septic tanks where all waste sewage pass through.

Aside the company having its monitoring team the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) periodically checks whether they are abiding by the laid down rules and regulations.

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