Chirano Gold Mine is a combined underground and open pit gold mine in the Western Region of Ghana, owned by Red Back Mining up to 2010, when it was taken over by the Toronto based Kinross Gold (at 90%) and the Government of Ghana (10%). Over the past three decades the mining sector in Ghana rebounded, mainly on the back of gold production, thanks to the introduction of a new regime heavily influenced by the World Bank and IMF in mid-1980s. Gold production accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total value of mineral output as well as mineral revenues to the government.
Since the inception of the Chirano project, one point of conflict is a long-running compensation dispute between the company and farmers dating back to 2004. A group called Concerned Citizens of Sefwi said compensation was paid to some farmers between 2004-2006 based on GH2.5 per matured cocoa tree, but farmers later learnt that the government approved crop compensation rate was GHC5.22 per matured cocoa tree. Court action followed and attempts to settle the matter out of court. In May 2012, the Land Valuation Division of Ghanas government wrote to Chirano Gold Mines to effect payment of compensation; as this was not happening, in October 2012 the farmers threatened to take back their land .
Not compensating farmers for their acquired land is blatantly an upfront violation to the Constitution of Ghana as well as to the Minerals and Mining Law, both of which require that if someone’s surface rights are to be disturbed by mining activities, this person is entitled to “prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation”. In 2013, the farmers took the matter back to court and in early 2015, the farmers who initially took the compensation were paid the difference with some interest. The rest are still waiting.
Often, protests by the farmers are met with violence and repression; claims of human rights abuses by police forces, destruction of crops and water pollution have in fact also been made, as stated by a report by FIAN International .
However, lack of justice and environmental problems are not confined to the Chirano Gold Mine. Ghana's policy of attracting foreign direct investment to its mining sector (inflows of USD770 million in 2010) has attracted a number of multi-national companies. In 2008, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) said a total of 82 rivers and streams in five mining communities had either been polluted, destroyed, diverted or dried- up due to activities of mining firms. As a colleague at the Rainforest Movement says, "Another important aspect is the difficulty in finding reliable alternative economic activities to engage, once farming ceases to pave the way for mining activities. With current mining activities being capital intensive, job opportunities for local people who lose their farmlands are limited. A visit to mining towns throughout the country reveal the poor nature of infrastructure and social amenities, especially for the locals, as mining workers enjoy relatively better infrastructure and amenities. In a way, an island of wealth is created in an ocean of misery and poverty.”
Even when companies adopt “corporate social responsibility” guidelines, they have marginally improved the lot of project affected communities. And this is the deal mining communities got from Ghana’s mining regime .