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Obuasi Gold mines in Ashanti region, Ghana


Description

Ghana is the world´s second largest producer of gold. One of the places where mining has been more intense is in the municipality of Obuasi, in the Ashanti Region. There it is The Oubasi Gold Mind, one of the biggest in Ghana and the world, and nowadays closed since 2016 due to lack of profits.  The mining had started there in 1897, under British rule and along the years, it has been accused of water pollution, land contamination and food insecurity.

In fact, in 2011, AngloGold Ashanti was declared the worst company for bad corporate behaviour in Ghana in the Public Eye Awards. [4]. In 2016 the Wall Street Journal (April 11 ) reported that in Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s No. 3 gold producer, closed shafts at its Obuasi mine in late 2014, as the mine hemorrhaged cash amid sinking metals prices. Early that year  (2016), hundreds of men broke through the 13-mile fence around Obuasi and started prospecting for gold there on their own".  By 2018,  the firm is considering to open the mine again, and has already received environmental permits from the authorities. 

In February 2018 AngloGold Ashanti  announced that it signed an agreement with the Government of Ghana to provide the framework for the redevelopment of the Obuasi Gold Mine, turning it into a “modern productive mining operation.” Under the agreement, which incorporates a development agreement, a tax concession agreement, a security agreement and a reclamation security agreement, AngloGold will invest $450 -$500m in bringing Obuasi back to producing and profitable mine operation. The Obuasi Gold Mine has been in “limited operating phase” since 2014, where it was decided that the mine operations would be significantly reduced due to falling gold prices and a prolonged period of significant losses.[2]

AGA has never faced the liabilities left by gold mining in Obuasi until 2014. [1]- 

Basic Data

NameObuasi Gold mines in Ashanti region, Ghana
CountryGhana
ProvinceAshanti Region
SiteObuasi
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesGold

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsAnglo Gold Ashanti (AGA) is the actual name of the company, after registering 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is the result of the merger between the state owned Ashanti Goldfields Corporation and the South Africa Anglo Gold Mining Company. Nowadays,it has operations in ten countries all over the world, including of course the biggest productors in Africa -Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania- Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia), US and Australia.

AGA is a subsidiary of the British mining giant Anglo American.

The mining concession covers an area of about 47,5 ha, and 80 communities live in a a 30 km. radious of the mine.

The forecast for the moment the mine reopens are to get a production of around 350.000 to 450.000 oz (gold ounze) in the first 10 years and a bit more, aroung 400.000 to 450.000 over the next ten, according to data published in the press.

Long term ambitions for the mine will see an average production rate of around 350,000oz to 450,000oz over the first 10 years and 400,000oz to 450,000oz over the next ten.
Project Area (in hectares)47
Level of Investment (in USD)500,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population198,000 in the great Obuasi area
Start Date1897
Company Names or State EnterprisesAnglo Gold Ashanti from South Africa
Anglo American from United Kingdom
Relevant government actorsGhana’s Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov.gh/epa) This Agency depends on the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI); it is in charge of giving the environmental permits for the reopening of the mine.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociation of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) http://www.wacamghana.org/

The Third World Network Africa http://twnafrica.org/indexx.html.

Action Aid (not an environmental organization, but it has researched about the Oubasi region).[3]. https://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/gold_rush.pdf

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
OtherRespiratory infections (ARI), diarrhoea, skin diseases and eye infections
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherDwelleres have accussed the company of alleged brutality and serious human rights abuses against local "galamsey" (small illegal miners) suspects. The word "galamsay" is said to have been coined from the English "gather and sell".

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Development of AlternativesIn 2006, Action Aid asked the company to take action on the water contamination, environmental damage, broken standpipes, and toxic flooding; provide adequate compensation for affected people for the toxic spill highlighted; cooperate with independent investigations into human rights allegations. They also urged the Government to enforce a more stringent water monitoring and pollution regime through the EPA, launch an inquiry into mining and health related problems in Obuasi n launch an investigation though the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice into human rights allegations.

Nothing of this happened then. The mine was closed on 2014 and is now ready to reopen without a real knowledge of what has to change.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.It wasn´t a success because the mine was closed down because of economic situatation, not for environmental reasons. There was remediation or compensation for liabilities during many years of mining until 2014. Now, the mine is about to open again and it's not clear what improvements they have done in the instalations in order to make it less damaging. Besides, there were no extra compensations to the villagers.

Sources and Materials

References

[3] Gold Rush: The impact of gold mining on poor people in Obuasi in Ghana. By Action Aid. An excellent report. 2006.
https://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/gold_rush.pdf

[1] Journal of Poverty, Investment and Development, vol 22, 2016. The Resilience of Mining Communities in Obuasi, as Anglogold Ashanti Shifts Position. By Augustine Yaw ASUAH and Prince Aboagye ANOKYE. [accessed Dec 21 2018].
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309718130_The_Resilience_of_Mining_Communities_in_Obuasi_as_Anglogold_Ashanti_Shifts_Position

Links

AngloGold-Ashanti to resettle 115 families at Dokyiwa
https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2011/10/08/anglogold-ashanti-to-resettle-115-families-at-dokyiwa/

[4] Ghana Business News: AngloGold Ashanti gets world’s worst company award for bad corporate behaviour in Ghana
https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2011/01/31/anglogold-ashanti-gets-worlds-worst-company-award-for-bad-corporate-behaviour-in-ghana/

Ghana's ruthless corporate gold rush. BBC, july 2006. After an investigation, the BBC reporter accusse AngloGold Ashanti of using extreme violence to protect their property
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/file_on_4/5190588.stm

Resolución De Obuasi, Asociación De Comunidades Afectadas Por La Minería (wassa)
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=6642&l=2

Journal of Sustainable Development Studies. Mining, Environment and Community Conflicts: A Study of Company-Community Conflicts over Gold Mining in the Obuasi Municipality of Ghana
http://www.infinitypress.info/index.php/jsds/article/viewFile/537/262

Nicholas Bariyo and Alexandra Wexler (April 11, 2016). "Fortune Hunters Endanger Africa's Abandoned Mines Fights break out as the commodities rout forces mining companies to close shafts". The Wall Street Journal. "In Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s No. 3 gold producer, closed shafts at its Obuasi mine in late 2014, as the mine hemorrhaged cash amid sinking metals prices. Early this year, hundreds of men broke through the 13-mile fence around Obuasi and started prospected for gold there on their own."
https://www.wsj.com/articles/fortune-hunters-endanger-africas-abandoned-mines-1460418330

[2] AngloGold to invest $500m to restart Obuasi gold mine. By Dale Benton . Feb 20, 2018
https://www.miningglobal.com/operations/anglogold-invest-500m-restart-obuasi-gold-mine

Media Links

Mines and Communities
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/?lang=es

Other Documents

AngloGold Mineshaft dominates Anyiman, a village next to Obuasi. Photo by: David Roser / Panos Pictures/ Action Aid
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/anyiman.jpg

Source: Dale Benton, Mining Global (Febr. 2018)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/obuasi-mine-from-a-distance.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorAurora Moreno Alcojor
Last update11/02/2019

Images

 

AngloGold Mineshaft dominates Anyiman, a village next to Obuasi.

Photo by: David Roser / Panos Pictures/ Action Aid

Source: Dale Benton, Mining Global (Febr. 2018)