The Concerned Farmers Association, Terchire has described Newmont’s media release that responded to the arrest of its members as a statement littered with untruths.
Addressing a press conference in Terchire in the Tano North District, Ahafo Region on Tuesday, Mr Bismark Oduro Mensah, who acted as the Spokesperson for the Association, said Newmont’s media release was packed with nothing more than ‘misinformation’ that sought to paint them as a law-abiding company.
But the reality on the ground, he said, was that the mining company’s operations in the Tano North District have been characterised by human rights violations of affected farmers since its inception.
Newmont in a media release on September 13, 2023, responded to reports of arrest of Concerned Farmers Association, Terchire in relation to its Ahafo North Project.
In the said statement, though Newmont noted with concern media publications alleging it connivance with the police to arrest some members of the Concerned Farmers in its Ahafo North Project’s mining area, the company reiterated that it remained committed to progressing the project in a responsible and sustainable manner, having due regard for the human rights of all persons affected by the project.
However, Mr Oduro Mensah, said has even resorted to peddling lies on court orders.
He recalled that on September 4 2023, 3 members of the Concerned Farmers group were arraigned before the Circuit Court, Duayaw Nkwanta following a compliant by Newmont for trespassing and unlawful damage of property.
“As the matter is pending before the Honourable Court, we’ll refrain from commenting on the incident. The accused persons were granted bail by the Court.”
According to the spokesperson, Newmont in its press statement disrespected the court by making a false statement to the effect that the court directed the accused person’s not to go to the mining area until the final determination of the trial.
“We have a certified true copy of the court proceedings from that day in our possession, and there was no such order from the Court. The Court’s directives dealt with admitting the accused to bail. The court did not make a determination on whether or not the land in issue is a mining area,” he clarified.
Against this background, Mr Oduro Mensah indicated that Newmont’s claim that the court ordered the accused to refrain from going to their farms or mining area/concession was false.
He continued that it was afterthought by the mining company to justify the arrest and detention of four other members of the Association on September 6, 2023.
This flagrant untruth and prejudicial statement, he lamented, showed the mining company’s contempt for not just the court’s orders, but also for the judiciary, and the laws of Ghana.
Below is the full statement
Statement by the Concerned Farmers Association in response to Newmont’s media release regarding the arrest and detention of some members of the Concerned Farmers Association. Terchire, Tuesday 26th September 2023
We have found it necessary to make this statement to address the untruths spread by Newmont in its media release on September 13, 2023 in response to the arrest of members of the Concerned Farmers Association. The media release was packed with misinformation that seeks to portray Newmont as a law-abiding and responsive company, rather than a company whose operations in the Tano North District have been tarnished by human rights violations of affected farmers since its inception.
Access to lands of Members of Concerned Farmers Association
On December 8, 2022, at the invitation of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Concerned Farmers met with a team representing the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to act on a complaint from the Newmont Ahafo Mine alleging that the aforementioned group – Concerned Farmers – were preventing Newmont from working on the Concerned Farmers members’ lands.
The Tano North Municipal Chief Executive hosted the meeting at Duayaw Nkwanta. The outcome of the said meeting was that the Minister would write to the parties for Newmont to carry out a Land Parcel Survey to first identify the respective boundaries of Land Owners or lawful occupiers of land who will be affected by Newmont’s activities. This decision was reached because the Concerned Farmers Association have about 84 members who own or occupy lands within the Tano North District. The identification of lands that would be impacted by Newmont’s activities would be basis for further engagement with the affected farmers. The Concerned farmers group were represented by Wacam and CEPIL officials at the said meeting. Instead of abiding by this decision, the company rather communicated to the members of the affected group that they would rather conduct a full built assets survey i.e. comprising enumeration of all farm properties and structures on one’s land. This was vehemently refused by members of the Association as it wasn’t the decision reached with the Minister’s representatives. We however indicated our availability for the conduct of the land parcel survey. Subsequent to the meeting of the Concerned Farmers with the team from the ministry, some Chiefs, from Ahafo, the Ahafo regional Minister and the DCE of Tano North organised a meeting at Tyco Hotel in Sunyani on 26th January, 2023, to seek the mandate of the concerned farmers to represent us in our engagement with Newmont. We declined the proposal from the Chiefs indicating to them that we had mandated CEPIL and Wacam to represent our interest. Till date the company hasn’t conducted this land parcel survey to identify and inform which of our member’s land will be impacted by their mining activities but they have rather resorted to the practice of entering onto our members’ lands and destroying their farm properties without their consent
Destruction of uncompensated lands by Newmont
The company has admitted to the destruction of uncompensated lands in Paragraph 6 of its media release on 13th September, 2023. It stated that ‘…There was an incidence where the company’s exploration team inadvertently impacted one of the farms that had not yet been compensated for…’ We however want to draw the public’s attention that this wasn’t accidental but the usual unlawful mode of operation of the company. The company have 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. The destroyed properties comprise teak trees, cocoa farms, palm trees and food crops belonging to John Mensah, Beatrice Mensah, Yaw Paul Asare, Abraham Amo, Silas Adjei Mensah, Gabriel Kofi Nelson, Abubakar Sadick and Emmanuel Kwame Marfo.
We dare Newmont to provide proof of the landowners with whom they claim to have reached an amicable agreement to pay adequate compensation after trespassing on their land to conduct their exploration activities, as stated in paragraph 6 of their media release. 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 interest of the land owners/farmers and destroyed them. These farms are the main source of income for these farmers, families and dependents and the loss of these lands has left them impoverished. On occasions we exercised our constitutional right to protect our farms from the destruction, the Company in concert with the Tano North District Police arrest and detain our members.
Newmont Peddling lies on Court Orders.
On September 4th 2023, three (3) members of the Concerned Farmers group were arraigned before the Circuit Court, Duayaw Nkwanta upon compliant by the company for trespassing and unlawful damage of property. As the matter is pending before the Honourable Court, we’ll refrain from commenting on the incident. The accused persons were granted bail by the Court. In Newmont’s media release the company disrespected the Court by making a false statement that the Court directed the accused person’s not to go to the mining area until the final determination of the trial. We have a certified true copy of the court proceedings from that day in our possession, and there was no such order from the Court. The Court’s directives dealt with admitting the accused to bail. The court did not make a determination on whether or not the land in issue is a mining area. Newmont’s claim that the Court ordered the accused to refrain from going to their farms or mining area/concession is false, and an afterthought by the company to justify the arrest and detention of four other members of the Association on September 6, 2023. This flagrant untruth and prejudicial statement by Newmont illustrates the company’s disdain for not just the Court’s orders, but also for the judiciary, our state institutions and the laws of the country,
Arrest and Detention of the farmers
The four persons arrested on 6th September, 2023, and detained for two days by the Duayaw Nkwanta District Police, to date, do not know of any offence committed. Upon being granted police enquiry bail on 8th September, 2023, Mr John Mensah’s approximately sixteen (16)-acre teak farm which he sought to protect from destruction had been cleared by the mining company. Clearly the company used his arrest and detention period as an appropriate means to destroy his teak farm. It is necessary to bring to your attention that none of the arrested persons who owns or is a lawful occupier of a land including John Mensah that had their farm properties destroyed by Newmont occasioning the arrest, consented to giving his or her land/crops out or negotiated any amount as compensation whatsoever for Newmont to take over their lands. In fact, that necessitated the need for the farmers to protect their farms from destruction when the company started clearing their lands. The company has no right to enter onto the land to undertake any of its mining activities as provided for in Section 13(9) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703. Section 13 (9) states ‘Subject to sections 73 and 74 (Compensation for disturbance of owner’s surface rights), a mineral right granted by the Minister under this section is sufficient authority for the holder over the land and entitles the holder to enter the land in respect of which the right is granted.’
In this instance, these arrested farmers have not been compensated for the disturbance of their surface rights so Newmont cannot enter onto their lands to conduct mining activities or claim it’s a mining area. In the case of Mr Mensah, he is the lawful occupier of a teak farm by a lease agreement he entered into with the landowner as far back as 2005. He has had exclusive possession over the land and crops on the farmland as the lawful occupier of the land for the past 18 years. As the lawful occupier he also owns the teak trees subject to the lease agreement with the land owners. 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. It is therefore not correct that Mr Mensah proceeded to harvest all the mature teak tress in the farm as alleged by the company.
We the members of the concerned farmers association will continue to adopt all legal means to protect our lands from destruction from the company and ensure that our members whose farm properties have been destroyed are fairly and adequately compensated as well.
Government’s Intention to Compulsorily Acquire Lands for Mining and other related purposes
On or about June 2023, the Government of Ghana in a publication declared its intention to compulsorily acquire some lands within the Tano North District for mining and other related uses. While government has started a process towards compulsorily acquiring some of the lands belonging to some members of the Concerned farmers’ association, no such lands as we write have been compulsorily acquired yet for the mining operations of Newmont in accordance with law. However, workers and agents of Newmont have entered onto lands belonging to some members of the Concerned Farmers Association and destroyed their farm properties. 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. This again shows the blatant disrespect and disregard of the laws of the land concerning land acquisition processes.
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.
Signed Joseph Adu Yaw Secretary, Concerned Farmers Association, Terchire