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An environmental nongovernmental organisation has condemned Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) Ahafo Mine for downplaying the extent of the 8 October 2009 cyanide spillage into local streams and thus depriving nearby communities of potable water.

The Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA), an environmental NGO based in Cape Coast, on Thursday deplored the "technical games" mining companies played in the country each time cyanide spillage occurred, particularly where poor farmers are affected.

It described as "worrying" the fact that the defaulting companies attempt to cover up and deceive the general public about the true effects of the spillage of toxic chemicals, stressing this could position them to compromise the level, scope and urgency of the remedial action that needed to be taken and to forestall recurrence.

In a press statement, signed by its Executive Director, Mr Samuel Obiri and copied to the GNA in Cape Coast, the Centre expressed concern over the October 8, 2009 cyanide spillage from the Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) Ahafo Mine processing plant into River Yaakyei and River Asuna in the Asutifi District of Brong Ahafo Region and thereby depriving a number of communities access to potable water.

It expressed regret that but for the vigilance of the affected communities, who reported the incident to officials of the Company after seeing dead fishes floating on the rivers, the people could have drank the cyanide polluted water and eaten the poisoned fishes to their detriment.

The CEIA said it was scientifically untrue that "cyanide concentration is only harmful to human beings if the concentration is 20mg/1 or 20ppm" as a press statement issued by Newmont's Regional Communications Manager, Ms. Adiki Ayitevi wanted Ghanaians to believe.

It explained that the World Health Organization (WHO) has set its permissible levels of free cyanide in water at 0.02ppm and, therefore, the EPA permissible level in the country cannot be 0.20ppm as Newmont stated in its press release.

CEIA, therefore, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Commission as well as the Mines Inspectorate Division of the Mines Department to be up and doing to protect vulnerable communities from the activities of mining companies.

"Live up to your task in sanctioning irresponsible behaviours of mining companies, who negligently pollute communities' source of water and later turn around to say it was an accident," the statement said.

The CIEA urged Newmont Ghana in particular and all mining companies to ensure that their internal safety and quality control mechanisms were in place and to work effectively to forestall "the recurrence of this unfortunate event regardless of the scale".

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