Dirty Diggers is an investigative radio report by CitiFM exploring the issues surrounding gold mining in the Upper West region of Ghana. There Yes to Life, No to Mining member CIKOD is working alongside communities who feel the activities of Australian mining multinational Azumah Resources are placing their livelihoods and future in jeopardy.
The report follows the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) extensive Fatal Extraction investigation into the social and ecological footprint of Australian mining multinationals operating in Africa. It reveals that questionable land records are partly fuelling the tension between the company and local people in the Upper West, as are the influx of illegal small-scale miners to the region and community concerns over gold mining’s potential impacts on land, water and air.
As of 2013, a total of 28 mineral concessions covering about 31 percent of the Upper West’s land area have been issued to large scale mining companies. The majority of these companies are Australian owned and a number have begun exploration and prospecting activities in the area.
The Upper West House of Chiefs, the traditional authority in the area have raised their concerns over this gold rush. Having received numerous complaints from their people about the conduct of companies, in late 2014 the chiefs called upon Ghana’s Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines to establish a moratorium on mining in the area. This has not yet become a reality.
The chiefs and their communities are supported in their opposition to mining by the growing Upper West Coalition on Mining, Water, Food and Sacred Natural Sites- a multi-sectoral group of NGOs, lawyers, journalists and other members of civil society.
Many of the coalition’s members are actively engaged in supporting livelihood and endogenous development programmes with communities in the region who rely on farming and fishing as their main sources of income. The coalition shares the conviction that gold mining would damage these sustainable development efforts as well as communities’ existing, sustainable livelihoods and cultural cohesion, leading to greater impoverishment in the area.
As such, the coalition argues that mining should not be considered part of the Upper West’s plan for development and have opposed mining projects including Azumah Resources’ Wa Gold Project.
In a statement to Ghana’s President the coalition declared the following:
“We are strongly of the view that the activities of Azumah Resources will gravely affect water quality and put the lives of the people in danger… In the light of the forgoing, we are fully persuaded that the Upper West Region is not ready for any mining adventure and we resolve to employ all legitimate actions to protect, preserve and defend the inalienable, non-negotiable rights and safety of the people and generations to come.”
Speaking at a recent Pan-African meeting of Sacred Natural Site Custodian’s, coalition member and Upper West community member Raphael Ali summarised the mood of the people even more succinctly:
“Our land is being destroyed by mining and we cannot grow our crops. We can’t eat gold, so we must say Yes to Life, No to Mining. For us it is as simple as that.”