NI: Global Issues for Learners of English > The Issues > Mining > Gold mining in Ghana

logoGold mining in Ghana:

People's homelands are destroyed.

 

When an American-Ghanaian gold-mining company took over the homelands of the people of Teberebie, they lost their homes and their livelihood.

Africa map showing Ghana

The chiefs protest

Why did 42 local chiefs put on mourning clothes and march through the streets of Tarkwa, an old mining town in western Ghana?

Usually, the chiefs are very formal and traditional, but on this day they were shouting and waving signs in the streets. There must have been a very important reason for them to act in this way.

There was. The chiefs are deeply worried about the future of their land and their people. Mining companies are taking control of their land, poisoning it and tearing it up as they search for gold.

 

A MINE (n) is a deep hole dug to get gold, coal, etc. If you dig for something, you MINE for it.

GHANA is a country in West Africa.
More about GHANA.

To MOURN (v) is to feel very sad and to show that sadness in the way you act. MOURNING CLOTHES are special clothes that are worn to show great sadness.

FORMAL (adj) serious or official

The mining company moves in...

The people must move out

Until 1990, the people of Teberebie in the Wassa Fiase area farmed their own land. They had lived on that land from the time of their great-grandparents, but now they do not.

In 1990 an American/Ghanaian company got permission to mine gold on their land. The company is called Teberebie Goldfields Limited (TGL). The whole community of Teberebie had to move away from their homes so that the land could be mined. This was the first case of 'resettlement' in the Wassa Fiase area.

RESETTLE (v) to move to another place to live

 

They have lost their land

Today the people have nothing of their own. One young man said, sadly:

"Everything has been taken away from us here, even our lives. All our lands have been taken for mining; our health is also at risk from the mining activities."

The people can no longer farm. Nicholas, a farmer in his sixties, explained why:

"When you go to farm anywhere, they say they are mining there and they bring a bulldozer to destroy your farm. They say they have bought the land."

The people also have to ask the mining companies if they want to build something.

"If you want to build anything here, you have to ask permission from the mining company. Why do we have to ask permission from a foreign company before we build on our land?" asked another man.

A BULLDOZER is a powerful vehicle for pushing large amounts of earth.

 

Broken promises

The chief made an agreement

In fact, the Teberebie chief made an agreement with TGL that his people would be resettled. However, the chief cannot read. Did he really understand what he was doing when he put his thumb-print on the agreement? Did TGL make a fair deal with the people of Teberebie?

In the agreement, TGL promised to build 168 houses that would be finished in a year. Now, it is nearly seven years after the agreement was signed and some of the houses are still not finished.

The houses are also of poor quality. They have no kitchens or bathrooms. Instead TGL built communal kitchens and bathrooms, where people must wait in line to cook and wash. In addition, explosions from the mines have made large cracks in most of the houses, so the people are afraid that if a storm comes their homes will be destroyed.

TGL has broken other promises, too. It agreed to provide electricity, to build a market and a community centre, and to build roads. It has not done these things.

A THUMBPRINT: (n) a mark made by someone's thumb. People who can't write, can use their thunbprint on official papers.Something is OF POOR QUALITY if it is not good at all.

EXPLOSION: (n) is a sudden violent burst like a bomb

CRACK: (n) a line made by something breaking.

Not enough clean water

TGL did not provide a way to get enough clean water and so many people get their drinking water from streams. However, the streams may be polluted by poisons (like arsenic and cyanide) that are used for gold mining. A lot of people who drink the stream-water have skin problems now, but before the mining started these skin problems were not common.

Something is POLLUTED if it is so dirty that it is dangerous.

No health care and no work

TGL did not provide a health clinic for the people of Teberebie. The company built a clinic for its own workers; however, TGL refuses to employ the local people from Teberebie. It prefers to employ migrant workers.

This makes the people of Teberebie very angry. As one of their elders said:

"If you [TGL] have driven us from our land and prevented us from farming, then find us work to do! Why do you offend us by refusing to employ our youth?"

However, it seems that TGL thinks it has done enough for the local people. It has paid them royalties equal to $4,000 over seven years: in other words, each person in Teberebie has received just $2.

Who is responsible?

The government didn't protect the people

Who is responsible for this situation? The people of Teberebie blame the government of Ghana, as well as TGL. They say the government does nothing to protect people like them from large companies who want their land.

Not only in Ghana!

Sadly, of course, the people of Teberebie are not the only people who have lost their land and their livelihood. Perhaps the most well-known example is the case of the Shell Oil Company in Ogoniland, Nigeria. But the same thing is happening in many parts of the world, where large companies want to make a profit from the minerals in the land.

The future of thousands of communities is in danger.
See Facts about Mining


"Mourning the Future" by Daniel Mensah Brande, on which this was based, appeared in the March 1998 issue of the New Internationalist.

Copyright 1998, the New Internationalist


NI: Global Issues for Learners of English > The Issues > Mining > Gold mining in Ghana

Inter-activities For Learners For Teachers About us Readers' Letters

Last Modified: 20 Nov 1999

Printer-friendly version of this page