Anti-Galamsey Taskforce Abandons Duty In Nzema East, As Pollution of Ankobra River Continues
Some residents of Gwira Ampansie,Dominasie and adjoining communities in the Nzema East Municipality in the Western Region are accusing the anti-galamsey taskforce, operating in the area, of shirking its responsibility, resulting in the current pollution of the Ankobra River with impunity.
According to them, the failure by the anti-illegal mining taskforce to ward off miners undertaking small-scale mining at the banks of the Ankobra Riverhas led to the current sorry state of their only major source of drinking water.
The angry residents, who are demanding an immediate reshuffle of the taskforce for a new team to be brought in, say they believe the present men have been deeply compromised by powerful miners in the area.
They claim that, though the anti-galamsey taskforce in-charge of the Gwira Ampansie enclave, which includes military personnel, are well aware of the activities of these miners, they are reluctant take any action against them.
Speaking to The Anchor, they said the Ankobra River is the only source of water the communities depend on, but due to its contamination, manyare forced to travel far distances just to buy sachet water to drink.
“The Ankobra River is the only source of water we’ve got. So right now, we have to go and buy sachet water. There is a ferry on the river which we use to go and buy the water. But as for drinking of the Ankobra, it’s over,” one of the residents, Kwadwo Amoo, narrated.
They wondered why the authorities are reluctant to crack the whip on operations of a popular small scale mining firm, just as they did in the case of Akonta Mining Ltd months ago.
For them, the inability or unwillingness to apply the law against those involved in the pollution of water bodies in the typically remote Ampansie and Dominasie communities is what has allowed others, particularly the locals, to join the in the menace.
Without mincing words, the residents told this paper that, activities by a mining firm called Okobeng Mining Ltd, operating at Akango, near the Ankobra River, are believed to be the cause of the pollution of the water bodies.
But this allegation has been refuted by the company, which insists it has all requisite permits to operate, even though government has declared water bodies and forest reserves as red zones.
A recent visit to the company’s site saw excavators busily operating with impunity, just at the bank of the Ankobra River, under a tight security protection by some private individuals.
This paper could count no fewer than five excavators, digging out the mineral deposits in a form of mud from the ground, very close to the river, in what appears to be alluvia mining operation.
Multiple videos and pictures, captured at different locations of the concession, which are all in the possession of this paper, showed the extent of destruction caused to the environment, particularly the Ankobra River.
It is, however, unclear if the attention of the authorities tasked to fight against irresponsible mining in the country has been drawn to the unfortunate operations of this company, owned by one Nana Okobeng Amponsah, its chief executive officer (CEO).
Residents say, several concerns raised against operations of the company, which has been operating in the area for sometime now, have yielded no result.
According to them, the community has been living in fear due to fire arms often displayed by staff of the company, a situation which deters them from confronting the management.
This claim was confirmed during this paper’s visit, when the CEO himself was spotted and captured on video, holding a pump-action gun on his shoulder and patrolling the concession during one of his visits to the site.
Interestingly, even before the story on pollution of the river bodies could be published, the CEO of the company hurriedly assembled some journalists and briefed them on the matter.
“I want to set the records straight today that these allegations leveled against my company are completely false, unfounded and cooked. Having being the law-abiding citizen who has dully registered and secured the certified necessary legal licenses or documents from the various state mining regulatory institutions including the Minerals Commission and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have been mining gold resource for the past twenty-five (25) years in Ghana, he would be the last person to do something to destroy water bodies. I respect the water bodies.”
“I dared anyone who knows the concession to go and verify how my company carries its responsible gold mining activities and see if its mining activities destroy water bodies as being claimed by these of my destructors,” he told journalists on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.
According to him, he legally secured various necessary licences from the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to mine gold at Dominase and that his company’s operations are confined in the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006. Act703.
It would be recalled that President Nana Akufo-Addo, early this year, declared designated forest reserves and water bodies as red zones, in a renewed fight against illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.
The various regional security councils have been directed to strictly enforce the law and flush out all illegal miners on sight, as well as destroy equipment being used for illegal mining.
“As from today Friday 30 April, 2021, all prospecting and/or reconnaissance activities in all forest reserves in Ghana, are to cease and all equipment for such purposes evacuated,” a press statement from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said.
It added: “Regional Security Councils across the country, which are already mandated to enforce all the laws, regulations and/or directives in the mining sector, have been put in readiness to ensure enforcement of these directives.”
“In this regard, the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, met with all Regional Ministers and relevant sector Ministers on Wednesday 28th April, 2021 at the Jubilee House, during which meeting, H.E. the President designated Forest Reserves and Waterbodies as “RED ZONES” and directed strict enforcement accordingly.”
According to the ministry, it has also “constituted a monitoring and evaluation team to ensure the enforcement of these measures” and also a situation room has been set up to receive complaints about illegal mining activities from the general public.