Described by Newmont Africa as the best-unmined gold deposit in West Africa, the Ahafo North Project in the Tano North District of the Ahafo Region received approval from the Board of Directors of the mining giant on July 15, 2021, advancing the Project into the execution phase. Located approximately 30 kilometers north of Newmont’s existing Ahafo South operations, the Ahafo North Project will include four open pit mines and the construction of a stand-alone mill. Production from the Ahafo North Project will average approximately 275,000 to 325,000 gold ounces and it is expected that, more than three million ounces of gold will be produced over an initial 13-year mine life. The project will cover five major communities- Yamfo, Adrobaa, Techire, Susuanso and Afrisipakrom all located in the Tano North Municipality. During our monthly mission visit in October this year to some of the aforementioned communities, it was discovered that Newmont Africa has started in earnest the clearing of farmlands for its exploration activities. But the clearing of these lands has come at a greater cost for most farmers in the area, especially Terchire and Afrisipakrom where farmers have been accusing Newmont Africa of unlawfully destroying their farm properties without the consent of the owners or negotiating payment of compensation for their farm properties. The destroyed properties observed by our mission teams comprise teak trees, cocoa farms, palm trees, and food crops. Speaking in an interview with, the President of the Concerned Farmers Association at Terchire said, Newmont has entered the lands of about 8 members of the Concerned Farmers group and unlawfully destroyed their farm properties without the consent of the land owners or lawful occupiers. He said, the destroyed properties belong to John Mensah, Beatrice Mensah, Yaw Paul Asare, Abraham Amo, Silas Adjei Mensah, Gabriel Kofi Nelson, Abubakar Sadick, and Emmanuel Kwame Marfo. “Despite the fact that Newmont is aware that these farms are the primary source of livelihood and survival for these farmers, they have been callous to the needs and interests of the land owners/farmers and destroyed them. These farms are the main source of income for these farmers, families, and dependants and the loss of these lands has left them impoverished”, John Mensah said.
Arrest and prosecution
According to the President of the Concerned Farmers group, the resistance by their members against the compulsory takeover of their farms has landed most of them in trouble, and has been either facing prosecution in court or being detained by the police at the Duayaw Nkwanta District Police. He said, three members of the concerned farmers have been facing trial at the Dauyaw Nkwanta Circuit Court since September 4 this year, and another four were detained for two days on the 6th of September 2023 without knowing the offence they had committed. Mr Mensah who was part of the four arrested persons noted that, upon being granted police enquiry bail on 8th September 2023, approximately sixteen (16) acres of teak farm which he sought to protect from destruction had been cleared by the mining company. He said the Company clearly used his arrest and detention period as an appropriate means to destroy his teak farm. In all, Mr Mensah is said to have lost about 27 acres of his farm and teak plantation. In a statement issued on the 13th September 2023 to clarify issues regarding the Ahafo North Project, Newmont Africa explained that the land in question is not owned by John Mensah as he is a tenant farmer. Newmont said, the said land has been fully assessed and due compensation has been paid to the farmland owner, following the owner’s request to Newmont to carry out the assessment, and John Mensah’s refusal to allow for same, adding that, Mr. John Mensah was duly notified of the landowner’s request for assessment and payment of compensation. But Mr Mensah told that, as a lawful occupier, he has exclusive possession over the land and crops on the farmland as well as his teak plantation. He said, regarding the teak farm, he entered into a lease agreement with the land owner as far back as 2005. He said, he has also had exclusive possession over the land and crops on the farmland as the lawful occupier for the past 18 years. “So, assuming without admitting that Newmont has paid compensation to the landowner, does the landowner have exclusive possession over the land and teak farm within the lease or tenancy period to assess and negotiate for compensation for the teak trees? Absolutely not”, he clarified.
Destruction of Fishponds including that of the Ahafo Regional best fish farmer
As part of its lands clearing activities in the Ahafo North Mine Project, Newmont Africa has also not spared the fish farmers in the area as hundreds of ponds have been completely destroyed or polluted, including the fishpond of the 2020 Ahafo Regional Best Fish Farmer, Mr Sampson Owusu. Some of the affected fish farmers are Nana Bonin Nkrawiri IV, Samson Owusu, Amoako Anthony, Moses Addai, Justice Kwame Ntim, Damptey Agyemang Peter, Enoch Damptey Agyemang, Andrews Adu- Amankwa, Paul Yaw Asare, Ahmed Said Addai, Issaka Abudu, Georgina Tamakloe, Agyen Hayford, Abdul Hamid Issaka, Grace Antwiwaa and Christopher Kwarteng. According to the 2020 Best Ahafo Regional Farmer, it was since the year 2008, that he started his fish farming business and it was no surprise he won the coveted award in the year 2020. Visiting some of the fish ponds in Afrisipakrom, our mission team discovered polluted ponds, and some completely destroyed ones but the fish farmers say Newmont Africa has failed to pay any compensation to them after taking their source livelihood from them. The 2020 Ahafo Best Fish Farmer confirmed to our mission team that, despite the massive destruction and its negative toll on the livelihood of the fish farmers, Newmont has denied any liability for payment of compensation on the grounds that the fish ponds were Speculative Development. In a petition dated 22nd September 2023, lawyers for the aforementioned fish farmers challenged Newmont’s claim that the fish farming business was speculative, describing Newmont's position as totally erroneous and flouting all mandatory statutory provisions relative to the payment of compensation to persons affected by mining activities.
2020 Ahafo Regional Best Fish Farmer, Mr Sampson Owusu at one of his destroyed ponds
The petition from the Chambers of S.K. Boafo and Co gave a fourteen days’ notice from the receipt of the letter to pay adequate compensation to the affected fish farmers but after more than a month, the farmers had received no reply from Newmont Africa, even though their source of livelihood has been taken away from them. Mr Samson Owusu is therefore urging the government to quickly intervene to ensure that, adequate compensation is paid to the fish farmers.
Government’s Intention to Compulsorily Acquire Lands for Mining
The Government of Ghana has in a publication declared its intention to compulsorily acquire some lands within the Tano North District for mining and other related uses. While the government has started a process towards compulsorily acquiring some of the lands belonging to some members of the Concerned farmers’ association, no such lands according to them have been compulsorily acquired for the mining operations of Newmont in accordance with law. Members of the Concerned Farmers have however said that, they are willing to follow all the laid down rules and regulations regarding the compulsory acquisition by the government and hoped Newmont would follow same by stopping the ongoing destruction of their farms.
Notice Displaying Government’s Intention to Compulsorily Acquire Lands for Mining at Terchire
“Although the Government published its intention to acquire land compulsorily in the affected communities in June 2023, there hasn’t been any assessment or enumeration of crops/properties by the Lands Commission and the affected farmers to arrive at compensation amounts for the affected farmers. The destruction of these lands will leave the farmers with no basis or evidence to demand for compensation payments to be made to them”, said Mr Joseph Adu Yaw, Secretary of Concerned Farmers Association, Terchire.
Newmont Reaction
In a statement dated 13th September 2023, Newmont Africa said, it remains committed to progressing the Ahafo North Project in a responsible and sustainable manner, having due regard for the human rights of all persons affected by the Project. According to the mining company, it respects and proactively engages in good faith dialogue to reach mutually acceptable solutions and the Ahafo North Project has enjoyed strong community, regulatory, and broader stakeholder support and approval. “Newmont Africa remains committed to progressing the Ahafo North project in a responsible manner, and in line with the due human rights requirements and processes. It will continue constructive and organised dialogue with all stakeholders on all issues of mutual concern to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business and the jobs, incomes, tax revenues and other benefits the company provides”, the statement added. On his part, Secretary of the Concerned Farmers Association assured of their resolve to continue to be law-abiding. “We wish to state that, members of the Concerned Farmers Association are responsible and law-abiding people who have made substantial investment on our farms over the years, as such, we will always employ all lawful and legitimate means to protect our investment from any wanton destruction, while demanding respect for our rights and under the laws of Ghana notwithstanding the intimidation, harassment and bullying from Newmont and its agents”, he said.