Human rights violations continue in Ghana's mining sector

By jforres

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WASHINGTON, DC-- International humanitarian organization Oxfam America calls on Ghana’s government to address ongoing human rights violations in the West African nation's mining industry. The call to action comes after 23-year old Kwame Eric was shot to death August 10 by an employee of Ghanatta Security Services, a private security firm hired by gold mining company, Anglo Gold Ashanti.

“This is unfortunately the latest in a string of human rights abuses that have been occurring in Ghana's mining sector over the years,” said Keith Slack, program manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program based in Washington, D.C. “The Ghanaian government should carry out a thorough investigation and bring those responsible to justice.”

According to news reports, Eric, a suspected illegal miner, was shot in the back near the South Tailings Storage Facility of Anglo Gold Ashanti’s Obuasi mine. The shooting follows other human rights abuses by security forces hired by the same mining company. In 2005, Awudu Mohammed, another alleged illegal miner, was also shot in the back near Obuasi. In 2009, Anthony Baidoo from Ghana’s Tebrerbie community was shot and maimed when he along with other farmers cut through a rock waste dump that blocked access to their farms.

"Police and private security companies working for mining companies in Ghana often forcibly evict people from mining areas without adequate respect for their basic rights,” said Moussa Ba, coordinator of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program in West Africa. “We call on Anglo Gold Ashanti to independently verify that it is in compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, a global set of human rights for security forces working for oil and mining companies.”

Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana has struggled to properly regulate the mining industry. This lack of adequate oversight has contributed to poverty and conflict between security forces working for mining companies and local communities. In 2008, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ghana’s governmental human rights agency, issued a comprehensive report in which it found a widespread pattern of human rights abuses in the mining the sector.

Civil society organizations such as WACAM, a group with a long history of supporting mining-affected communities have been criticized for calling attention to these abuses and defending community rights, including around Anglo Gold Ashanti’s projects in the areas of Obuasi and Tarkwa. Oxfam America supports the work of these organizations to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the mining sector. 

“Organizations like WACAM can play a critical role in helping Ghana address ongoing human rights problems. All actors involved, including civil society organizations, mining companies and in particular CHRAJ should work together to urgently address these human rights concerns,” said Richard Hato-Kuevor, program officer for Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program in Ghana.