Painful extraction

Guardian, 3 August 2007

It all has a depressingly familiar ring. The fingerprints of a British mining company are found to be all over abuses around the world. And again, there are high-level connections with the government. Enervated readers might be tempted to follow the lead of Gordon Brown, who is allowing it all to happen.

Anglo American, the world’s second largest mining company, today announces its financial figures for 2007, on the back of record profits in 2006 of more than $6bn. Last year, I visited Obuasi in Ghana, the site of Africa’s largest gold mine, run by AngloGold Ashanti (AGA), an Anglo American subsidiary. The mine had polluted local water systems, while many people told me how they live in fear of joint company/police “security” patrols, which have allegedly shot or killed several trespassers on company territory – a chareg denied by AGA. In the past year, the appalling poverty of villagers literally living on top of gold has not improved one jot….

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  1. Michael says:

    (The system won’t let me post a long reply, so I have to post what I have written in several parts.)

    On “The Guardian” Web site, a few people have left comments critical of this article.

    AngloGold and Ashanti merged in 2004, they state, but Mark Curtis failed to tell us this. AngloGold can’t be held responsible for problems created by another firm, they continue. Since the merger, AngloGold is cleaning up Ashanti’s act.

    But is it?

    Look at the statements made by AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) in its annual reports:

    AGA claims to have “honesty and integrity”, has “good stewardship”, is a “responsible and ethical corporate citizen”, and that the community is “better off because we were there”.

    In short, if you believe AGA’s “honest” appraisal of itself, it’s an all round good guy…

  2. Michael says:

    (Part 2)

    So, who is better off because AGA is there?

    Certainly not small-scale miners, young men who have very little formal education, few life opportunities, and are desperate to make ends meet – they are being shot, tortured and killed by a corporation rich enough and knowledgeable enough to buy up the community’s mining concessions all for itself:

    “WACAM Condemns the Shooting of Small-Scale Miners by AngloGold Ashanti, Obuasi Mine”

    “AngloGold Ashanti Security shoots Galamsey Operator”

    WACAM stands for Wassa Communities Affected by Mining. Oxfam says WACAM is “a powerful voice for mining communities in Ghana”:

    So, what about the community? Are they benefiting from AngloGold’s presence? Not unless you consider a corporation taking the law into its own hands and then perverting the course of justice a good thing:

    “AngloGold Ashanti and Obuasi Police lied [to Ghanaians]”

    “WACAM Condemns Attempt by AngloGold Ashanti to Cover Up Shooting of Galamsey Suspect”

    Surely AngloGold is listening, though; surely these tragedies are merely misunderstandings between the firm and the mining community? AGA is listeninng, all right – to silence!:

    “AngloGold Ashanti renege on dialogue”

    So, what’s left to discuss? Well, I’ll let the communities of Obuasi tell you:


    What’s on the agenda? Oh, not much. Just:

    . Environmental degradation
    . Effects of cyanide spillages
    . Pollution of streams
    . Using of guard dogs on galamsey suspects
    . Shooting suspects
    . Loss of livelihood/unemployment
    . Low compensation and resettlement problems
    . Establishment of mine waste
    . Problems of abandoned pits and cyanide containments in communities.
    . Unlawful arrests and torture of suspects
    . Operation of private cells
    . Increased mining related diseases
    . Compulsory acquisition of lands
    . Creating of dams and increased incidence of mosquitoes and invasion of communities by reptiles.

    “In the past, AngloGold Ashanti had failed to attend scheduled meetings on dates fixed by the company. To date there is nothing concrete to show that there is a dialogue process between AngloGold Ashanti and us, though the company continues to create the wrong impression to local and international inquirers that there is an on-going dialogue to address the problems.”

    Since its “inception” in 2004, AGA has, indeed, been busy – reinforcing the terrible legacy of Ashanti!

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