In Ghana, a mining activist fights the gold goliaths – by Paul Carlucci (Toronto Star- April 7, 2012)

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 TARKWA, GHANA—Whether on billboards along the roads or embroidered on shirt collars, mining companies are ubiquitous in this jungle hub of Ghana’s Western Region.

Their presence is sometimes lost behind the lazy-leafed plantain trees, drooping palm fronds, and steep, green hills encasing the town, but a mountain of waste rock obscures much of the horizon.
“They take the gold and leave these kinds of things,” says Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, executive director and co-founder of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM).
Ghana, once known as the Gold Coast, is the continent’s second-biggest producer of gold, after South Africa. It is also home to significant deposits of bauxite, manganese, aluminum and diamonds.

But a 2008 report by the country’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice highlighted a litany of abuses in the mining sector, including torture, illegal arrests and detentions and violent disruption of community protests.

That’s where Owusu-Koranteng and WACAM come in.
Owusu-Koranteng is the vociferous and often controversial public face of the organization, which works in about 60 of Ghana’s mining communities. Its aim is to “aid communities that are adversely affected by gold mining” — by helping residents mobilize against human rights abuses, negotiating better compensation packages from the mining companies and raising awareness about the environment.
Owusu-Koranteng and his wife, Hannah, founded WACAM in 1998. Although the couple live in the capital of Accra, the organization is headquartered in its birthplace of Tarkwa, an area with the densest collection of open pit mines in West Africa.

At 56, Owusu-Koranteng proudly calls himself a warrior. His family history includes a military-inspired migration to the country’s Eastern Region, where he says a great uncle led a charge against a rival tribe and helped form a new state.
His father, who died when he was 10, was a Presbyterian pastor. His mother, who never remarried, took care of Owusu-Koranteng and his four siblings, working any way she could, whether as a street-roving seamstress or beachside fishmonger. That, he says, is the Koranteng warrior spirit.

“My father was a fine gentleman — an intellectual — and they were two contrasting characters,” he says. “I’m a combination of my father’s fine nature and my mother’s courage.”
His mother died five years ago, at 83, from kidney disease.

They gave her a royal funeral, he says, befitting the family’s regal history. Owusu-Koranteng says he was in line to be village chief but felt his calling was elsewhere, first in the country’s anti-colonial nationalist movements and then in the mining sector.

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