Oti Region Iron Ore Will Benefit All Ghanaians
The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has assured the public, government is fully committed to ensuring that the iron ore deposits discovered in Oti Region will be extracted and used for the benefit of all Ghanaians, particularly the people of Oti.
According to the Deputy Minister responsible for Lands and Forestry, Benito Owusu-Bio, the government is still at the exploratory stage of the mining value chain of the iron ore, as steps are under way by the ministry to operationalize the mining of the minerals.
He said, “Currently, the Ghana Integrated Iron and Steel Development Corporation (GIISDEC), the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of an integrated iron and steel industry in the country, is undertaking mineral resource estimation at one of the seven blocks in the Gyamurume and Wawaso areas.”
He noted that, satellite scans have been completed, and mapping and geophysical surveys are underway, which he said are expected to be completed within a year and half, noting further that, so far, 10 people from the local community have been employed.
The Deputy Minister gave this assurance on the floor of Parliament yesterday, November 23, when answering questions on behalf of the sector minister, Samuel A. Jinapor.
In addition to iron ore, he alluded that the Ghana Geological Survey Authority (GGSA) is carrying out geological investigations into limestone deposits to define and quantify their economic potential for exploitation.
He assured the House that before any serious mining activities begin in the region, the ministry will ensure that all the necessary measures are put in place to forestall any illegalities that will negatively impact the environment, as seen elsewhere.
The assurance by the ministry follows what seemed to be an ill-informed crusade by the Catholic Bishop of Jasikan, Most Rev. Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, who, in a statement, urged chiefs and opinion leaders from the area to revolt against the project, saying that mining iron ore in the region will not benefit the people.
In his opinion, the mining, which is expected to commence by the end of 2023, could cause mountainous areas to slide off, and thereby cause deaths and harm to life and property.
In a statement to address the development, the Catholic Bishop had said that mining in and around mountainous areas is not the best and has its consequences.
“For instance, if mining would be done on the Akpafu Todzi, Teteman, and other nearby mountainous areas, the constant disturbance of the mountains and vibrations caused by heavy equipment could lead to landslides.
“The result will be that a whole village, such as Teteman or Akpafu Todzi, could slide off causing death, harm to lives and properties. Communities living in the nearby valleys could also be buried by the same landslides. In the case of Bowiri communities, their ancestral home will be destroyed,” Bishop Mante had stated.
Without considering thousands of jobs that would be created for the teeming youth, Most Rev. Gabriel Mante, who is 75 years old, insisted, “There is no guarantee that mining in the Oti Region will contribute to the economy of the local people. The aforementioned repercussions, the destruction of the environment, the health implications and the worsening indigenous economy far outweigh the benefits that could be derived from mining the mineral resources.
“In considering all that has been said, we call upon the traditional leaders, both in the Oti and Volta Regions to take a determined and uncompromising stance against the mining of the mineral resources which have now been discovered and those yet to be discovered. We would like to remind them that their greatest responsibility from God and our ancestors is to protect the lives God has entrusted to them to lead.”
The Catholic Bishop of Jasikan further called upon all government officials within these two regions to re-examine whatever agreement they must have reached with companies which have been invited or contracted to mine these resources, namely the iron ore, the gold and the lithium.
He argued, “First, are the repercussions of mining these mineral resources mentioned above favourable or not to our people? Second, will the mining of these mineral resources address the present and future needs of the people? We would like to remind the people of these two regions that they have an inalienable right to life and for that reason any reality which has the potential to threaten this life must be resisted.”
Measures Against Galamsey
Meanwhile, Mr. Owusu-Bio also touted a number of measures government has put in place to mitigate the illegal mining menace, noting that these measures can also pass as progress government has made in the fight against the menace.
“Government has implemented several policies and programmes aimed at coming to grips with this canker. We declared river bodies as red zones for mining, banned reconnaissance, prospecting and/or exploration in Forest Reserves, launched Operation Halt II to rid river bodies and forest reserves of illegal mining activities, introduced speed boats and river guards to patrol and protect our river bodies, banned the manufacture, sale and/or use of the floating platform, popularly referred to as Changfan, enhanced the punishment regime for persons involved in illegal mining, revamped Community Mining Schemes and developed an Operational Manual to regulate their operations,” he said.
Answering the questions of disposal of government lands, he reiterated that, as has been the case in all governments under the Fourth Republic, government has disposed of some landed properties since 2017.
He was however quick to add that, as to the number of transactions, the beneficiaries and value of those transactions, he will rely wholly, on previous answers given on 3rd February, 7th June and 28th June, 2022, as captured in the Hansard for those days.
He also made it clear that, when the Lands Commission, who is the repository of this information, finishes compiling the records, including those relating to previous years already requested by the House, he will furnish the House with the information.
Achimota Forest Reserve
On the question of why government issued an Executive Instrument (E.I. 144) to declassify 40% of Achimota Forest Reserve and how lands in this reserved area were already demarcated and sold out to individuals, the Deputy Minister gave a historic background to the matter and stressed that “Achimota Forest is an integral part of Government’s plan for the protection of our forest cover and our agenda for aggressive afforestation and reforestation, and the Government of President Akufo-Addo, remains fully committed to its protection and proper management.”
He therefore gave an assurance to the House that Government will act on any improper acquisition of public lands, regardless of how it was procured, whether now or in the past, and the Achimota Forest Lands will not be an exception.
The Deputy Minister stressed that, public lands are not for sale and, for that matter, the Akufo-Addo government has not sold lands to any institutions, groups of people or private individuals.
Speaking to the question of the quantity and whereabouts of the confiscated rosewood, which is said to have been donated to the National Cathedral, he said that, as announced on 30th July, 2022, by the sector minister that all rosewood confiscated will be donated towards the construction of the National Cathedral, “since this date, twelve point five (12.5) containers, containing an estimated wood volume of Two Hundred and Fifty cubic metres (250m3) of Rosewood, have been confiscated and donated to the National Cathedral Project and this includes the five containers impounded on 17th June, 2021 at Tema Port.”
He implored the House that, for security reasons, all Rosewood donated to the National Cathedral Project are stored at the Forestry Commission Depot, in Achimota, stating that as and when the project requires wood, they will make use of this confiscated wood.
The Deputy Minister assured the House and the good people of Ghana that “our management of the natural resources of our country, including Rosewood, will continue to be anchored on the highest standards of transparency, integrity and candour for the benefit of the Ghanaian people, the owners of these resources.”