African Civic Groups Urge Canada Government To Rein In Mine Cos
09-25-06 08:17 AM EST
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- The African Civil Societies Organizations, representative of all national civil societies on the continent, have called on the Canadian government to adopt mandatory mechanisms to regulate the overseas activities of its mining companies.
It issued a memorandum after a meeting at which several mining companies were seriously implicated in cases of human rights violations and environmental abuses such as destruction of farmlands, water resources, protected forests, injuries and threats to death, African CSOs said.
The memorandum was issued after a meeting of 38 members of different civil societies organizations from 12 African countries, held in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Toronto-listed Golden Star Resources Ltd. (GSS), launched in Canada 25 years ago, was named at the African CSOs meeting by representatives from Ghana for polluting the environment by mining in the heart of the country's Prestea town center.
"When people protested, the army was deployed, opened fire and wounded seven people," Abdulai Daramani of research and advocacy group Third World Network- Africa, or TWN-Africa told Dow Jones Newswires.
But Golden Star Resources vice-president Bruce Higson-Smith said two people were injured in the incident, which took place in June 2005 and was related to a peaceful demonstration organized by 30-40 townspeople over blasting methods that was hijacked by around a 1,000 illegal miners.
"Despite the fact that most of the houses were 50 years old in an area which gets two meters of rain a year, we changed our practices to minimize the blasting and we gave them the benefit of the doubt by agreeing to rebuild part of the town," Higson-Smith told Dow Jones Newswires.
Active lobbying to eliminate illegal mining led these miners to hijack the march and reroute it to Golden Star Resources' mine, where workers and security staff, were attacked, Higson-Smith added.
Police intervention resulted in two injuries as bullets ricocheted off the rocks.
The Tanzanian activities of Toronto-based gold producer Barrick Gold Corp. ( ABX) were also criticized by ACOs representatives, who accused the company of evicting small scale miners from the Kahama area so its subsidiary could start its operations there.
However, Deo Mwanyika, executive director of Barrick Gold Tanzania, noted the failure of the civil society to distinguish between licensed small-scale miners and land surface rights holders and artisan miners who trespass by mining anywhere.
"In the case of Kahama, it was not an eviction. The government compensated small-scale and licensed miners and relocated them to other areas before Barrick Gold could move in and start its mining operations," said Mwanyika.
U.S. Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM), whose shares are also listed in Toronto, was also named at the meeting by ACOS participants from Ghana. These members said Newmont was destroying the environment by mining in Ghanaian forest reserves, TWN-Africa's Daramani said.
Daramani said Newmont's subsidiary in Ghana, Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd., is actively seeking a license from the government of Ghana to mine gold in Akyem, home to the country's last biggest forest reserves. Local people are protesting that mining activities would put an end to their livelihood.
But Mawuena Dumor, a spokeswoman for Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd., told Dow Jones Newswires that the company is committed to forest reclamation strategies at its operations before and after mining.
"Our approach is that for every one acre of forest reserve that may be impacted in any way by our mining activities, we are committed to reforest four more acres," she said.
"We have expanded this scheme to other regions in the country where forests reserves have been highly degraded, not just by mining but also by human activities," Dumor added.
Only 10% of Ghana's forest reserves are left as 90% of them have been cleared due to "slash and burn" farming methods, Dumor said.
In June 2005, the Canadian parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade called on the government to regulate the activities of Canadian extractive resources companies overseas.
But the Canadian government hasn't yet responded and isn't expected to do so until the end of a public national roundtable into the matter.
A joint statement by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said the roundtable aims to examine measures to position Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries to meet or exceed leading international corporate social responsibility standards and best practices.
"Interested individuals and organizations are encouraged to participate in the public forum," the statement added.
-By Antoine Roger Lokongo, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)207 842 9317; firstname.lastname@example.org
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