Ghana's Journalist Association has awarded its 2007 prize for best environmental reporter to Emmanuel Kojo Kwarteng for his story "Lessons on Acid Rock Drainage." His article exposed plans for a new gold mine in Ahafo failed to properly test for pollution and lacks adequate water treatment.
"This award is dedicated to the poor mining communities," said Kwarteng. "Their struggle has been recognized. I hope this will encourage people to continue the fight against irresponsible mining."
Kwarteng has served as an advisor to Oxfam America's partners in Ghana that are working to help communities affected by mining pollution and other social problems.
Kwarteng's article described the problems of acid mine drainage, which pollutes rivers and streams with acid leaching from rocks exposed in mining. He wrote about a report from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an environmental impact assessment for the proposed mine run by the Newmont Mining Corporation of Denver.
Kwarteng gained access to the report after a petition was filed under the US' Freedom of Information Act. When the EPA report became available to the public, it revealed that the testing carried out by Newmont on the potential of acid mine drainage was inadequate. His article was published in the Daily Graphic, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Ghana.
The EPA report also noted that the amount of cyanide that would be allowed in water discharged and held in waste holding areas would be above acceptable standards. Kwarteng's article quoted the EPA report: "Cyanide will be discharged into the tailings facility at 1,000 times the aquatic life water quality standard and 100 times the drinking water standard, thereby setting up for future water quality problems."
Press articles critical of the mining industry in Ghana are unusual. Kwarteng said that access to technical data made his award-wining story particularly strong. "Most of the mining companies here have a way of controlling information, but in this case I got some primary data," he said. "These are facts that could not be disputed."
Kwarteng has also been threatened with lawsuits by mining companies when he published stories about controversial subjects. "Mr. Kwarteng has made great sacrifices to report on many critical mining community issues such as military and police brutalities in mining communities, cyanide spillages, forced evictions of mining communities, and environmental problems," said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, director of WACAM, an environmental and human rights organization in Ghana that works in partnership with Oxfam America.