...Chiefs accused of selling out to the Chinese
Friday, July 31, 2009
INVESTORS TURN ILLEGAL MINERS
...Chiefs accused of selling out to the Chinese
It is true; the Chinese are into 'Galamsey' mining in the country. Not only that; they have mined into River Ankobra, a prominent river that serves as the only source of drinking water for the farming communities of Adansi, Dikoto and Konkorso all in the Wassa Amenfi East District of the Western Region.
Under the mining regulations, the closest a mining activity can come to a river is 200 feet away. But the Chinese 'Galamsey' operators have mined much closer to River Ankobra. Indeed, in some cases, they have forced hoisted mud into the river to divert its natural course and create a way for them to seek out gold. So in the ongoing rainy season, the flooding near the river has spread much wider unto farms and roads.
What is more, whilst the Chinese seem to have taken a break in the wake of recent media reports, there are enormous pits left uncovered right along the river at different locations which have become storage tanks for rain water. A lot of this clayey water has found its way into the river giving it a milky look. A first time visitor from the city must be dying to drink water from the river in its current muddied state. But the locals have no choice.
The people of Adansi, who live a few metres right across the river thought they were going to be compensated when they first saw the Chinese in the area. Now feeling hard done by, they have seized two huge excavators the Chinese used to create the mosquito breeding pits near their long standing mud thatched houses. They are not even happy with their own traditional leaders. In low but defiant tones, they would blame their leaders for taking money from the Chinese and allowing them access to the area. The Chief of Adansi, like many others in the country, however does not stay in Adansi.
Indeed, WACAM, an NGO that has been mobilizing the people against the destruction of their lands has expressed worry over the case of some Chiefs and security personnel conniving with the Chinese. Mr. Owusu Koranteng of WACAM told Public Agenda that "the issue is a very serious one" and that "the level of environmental degradation, social problems and pollution caused by the illegal mining operations of the Chinese calls for immediate action by government to stop the activities of the network of Chiefs, Chinese, security agencies who are causing mayhem in the area."
Still, Kwadwo Awudi, 40, is a native of Dikoto, another farming community along river Ankobra. Awudi farms rice and maize right on the fringes of the river near the bridge that links the community with others. The Chinese came with their excavators and dug into half of his farm. In that same location, hoisted earth has been pushed into half of the river thereby severely narrowing its path. As compensation, upon his persistence, Awudi was given GHC 700.00 as compensation.
A few metres away from Awudi's farm is a house belonging to the Chief of Dikoto, Nana Ntiako Agyiri II who however lives in Akropong, the district capital.
It is in this house that the Chinese Galamsey operators are staying. Indeed, when Public Agenda visited him in his house at Akropong, Nana Ntiako Agyiri admitted renting the house out to them. And he did not see what the fuss was about him giving them accommodation. "Me," he said, "I stayed abroad for 13 years. I was renting peoples homes." This reporter and his team made a stop by and tried to talk to the Chinese. "No no no" was the chorus response as they claimed they did not understand English.
That said; there are several controversies surrounding the activities of the Chinese in the country. Meanwhile, a reliable source told Public Agenda that there are about six groups of them in the Wassa area alone who are moving from place to place in search of gold. When they are sacked from one place, they move to another.
In the first place, mining concessions, they say, are the preserve of Ghanaians. But Ghanaians, in most cases, do not have the needed equipment and the like for the job. That is where the Chinese are said to have come in at first. Indeed, the new District Chief Executive (DCE) Hon. Stephen Baidoo Acheampong said what the Chinese brought to him, upon demand, was only a license for the provision of "mining services" and not for actual mining.
He says he is bent on curtailing them. He knows though that he has to tread cautiously since he believes they have backing from somewhere; a place he cannot quite lay a finger on. For how could they have been so bold and scornful? He wondered. "One of them snubbed me when I wanted to talk to him," he said.
Indeed, many have said that it is Ghanaians who are fronting for the Chinese. And in that regard a man whose name has never been left out of the saga is one Eric Koffie, who told yours truly he has been in the mining business for over 20 years. In an interview, Eric Koffie denied vehemently ever having anything to do with the Chinese even as he explained that indeed the Chinese are into partnerships with some Ghanaians in the business. He mentioned Nana Ntiako Agyiri as one of those having a partnership with the Chinese. But the Chief also flatly denied allowing the Chinese access to his territory. He said he only provided them with accommodation.
So who permitted the Chinese, whom Eric Koffie said have been in the area for some two years now, to venture beyond providing mining services into actual mining?
Ghana's Minerals Commission (MINCOM), "has the authority under the Constitution to regulate and manage the utilisation of mineral resources and co-ordinate policies relating to minerals." So is the commission aware of the 'Galamsey' activities of the Chinese in the country? Public Agenda sought some answers from the Chief Executive Officer Mr. Benjamin Aryee.
Mr. Aryee admitted that indeed, the commission had issued licenses to a number of Mine Support Service Companies some of which included the Chinese. Such companies, he explained, are to support the work of "regularized small scale miners" and not those in illegal mining.
He said it is therefore illegal for the Chinese or any other group for that matter to go into mining in the country when they do not have the right to do so. "It is not different from armed robbery," he declared. And so when they heard about the Chinese, Mr. Aryee said, some of them were invited to the commission and warned to stop the mining and go back to reclaim the land they had destroyed.
Mr. Aryee called for vigilance, which has obviously been lacking, from the security agencies, the media and all Ghanaians in curbing illegal mining.
Even Ghanaian small scale miners have long earned a bad name. They are referred to as "illegal miners" mostly because their activities have largely gone unregulated; they do not pay taxes to government. They also defiantly venture into concessions meant for giant companies that are considered legal and the ensuing clashes have been deadly in some cases. Their activities have destroyed their own communities too.
In the main however, the local small scale miners do not have the heavy duty equipment the Chinese use. Relatively speaking therefore, the destruction caused by the Chinese is far greater. Moving from Saamang to Adansi, Dikoto and Konkorso, one comes across huge excavators belonging to the Chinese 'Galamsey' operators. Locals complain that the excavators have destroyed culverts and wooden bridges they have built on water ways for passage.
Author: Basiru Adam reports from Wassa
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