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Colorado-based Newmont Mining announced today that they have approved funding to develop the Akyem gold mine project in Eastern Ghana. This destructive mine project would create an open-pit in a Forest Reserve, threaten water sources, and displace around nine thousand people from their homes, lands, or livelihoods.

Communities in Ghana have expressed great concern about the Akyem project, and their concerns have already stalled the mine project several times. WACAM and other community groups have protested over the company’s plan to mine in a Forest Reserve, potential impacts on water supply, loss of access to land, and inadequate compensation plans for displaced communities. Newmont has already displaced some community members. In total, over a thousand people would lose their lands and homes, and thousands more would lose their agricultural lands. The mine would destroy approximately 340 acres (140 ha) of tropical forest and a quarter of the forest left in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve. In 2009, the project gained notoriety when it caused Newmont to receive the Public Eye Award for irresponsible practices.

Newmont has yet to adequately assess the impacts of the project and never accounted for serious technical and biodiversity concerns expressed by civil society groups. In 2008, independent reviews of the draft mine plans by the Center for Science in Public Participation and Earthworks revealed that the project had failed to plan to adequately line the waste storage areas or to reduce the threat of cyanide and other toxic acid mine drainage contamination. The company also neglected to thoroughly survey and accurately assess impacts on biodiversity. The project’s impact statements also neglected to consider a smaller surface or underground mine for the project in order to destroy less land. When the company produced its Final Environmental Impact Statement, all of those issues remained a problem.

Newmont now appears to be advancing with the project in spite of possible economical setbacks as well. The company revised estimated gold reserves for the project down by 0.5 million ounces in 2010. Costs may also have gone up. Although some previous estimates were that the project would cost $500 million, the company was estimating as of February that capital expenditure would be between $700 million and $1 billion.

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