You Can’t Stop Akonta, But Spare Okoben Mining
There is growing tension among residents, particularly the youth, in the Gwira traditional area of the Western Region over the seeming failure on the part of the authorities to halt alleged illegal mining by Okoben Mining Ltd, a local small-scale mining company operating in the area.
According to the youth, they are disappointed that after more than two weeks sincea petition was brought against the companyby the chiefs, nothing has been heard from the supervising institutions, including the Minerals Commission, which is the regulator.
They stated that, the activities of Okoben Mining in the Gwiratraditional area are worse than what Akonta Mining company was accused of, which reason the latter was stopped from operating in the TanoNimiri Forest Reserve in October 2022.
Leader of the youth, Samuel Erzuah, told The Anchorthey will not relent on their charge against their traditional leaders until the company is sacked from operating in the area.
“They cannot stop Akonta Mining from allegedly engaging in galamsey, but same people will allow Okoben to continue causing havoc on our lands. Is it the case that the owner is more powerful than Chairman Wontumi, the owner of AkontaMining and regional chairman of NPP?” he quizzed.
According to the youth, the owner of Okoben Mining is from Mampong in the Ashanti Region, but because the chiefs from the Mampong traditional area have banned mining activities in their jurisdiction, he will not go there to mine, but rather go toother people’s land to torment them.
He indicated that, the youth have planned series of lawful actions which in the coming days they will undertake to press home their demand.
But when contacted, the Head of Communications at the Minerals Commission, Isaac Kojo Abraham, told The Anchor that the petition did not pass through his office, but he promised that he will follow and give the feedback.
According to him, such petitions are often addressed directly to the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO’s) office and, therefore, he has to verify if the petition has come or not.
“Those things will not pass through my eyes, the way it is run I want to believe it went to the CEO.”
The concern by the residents follows a petition by the chiefs and people of the Gwiratraditional area in the Nzema East Municipality to the Minerals Commission to withdraw any licence(s) granted to the Okoben Mining Company Ltd with immediate effect.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ghana Police Service, among other regulatory bodies, have also been petitioned.
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Accra on Thursday, Awulae Agama Tuagyan II, the Omanhene of the Gwira Traditional Area, alleged that the company, over the past six years, had engaged in illegal small-scale mining, otherwise known as galamsey, in the area.
That have destroyed cocoa farms and polluted the Ankobra River, the main source of drinking water for the people, he said.
In addition, the people suffer skin diseases and irreparable skin damage due to the poisonous chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide, used to extract gold.
The company, AwulaeTuagyan said, has also refused to pay any compensation to farmers whose cocoa farms were destroyed.
“The company has failed to reclaim the degraded lands, thereby, depriving the residents of their source of livelihoods and worsening their economic conditions,” he said.
“When Nananom and the people started complaining, the company’s managing director, Mr. Amponsah, is using some methods to intimidate us with armed landguards and other offensive weapons.”
“The company has never provided a single corporate social amenity to any community since it started operations in the traditional area about six years ago.”
“We once visited Okusuro, one of the villages, which had suffered massive degradation due to the company’s illegal mining activities. The armed land guardsemployed by Okoben Mining Company chased us with cutlasses and guns…They destroyed our vehicles and useful items…In fact, we’ve become slaves on our own lands,” the Omanhene said.
The Traditional Council has petitioned the Minerals Commission, the Municipal Security Council, the Sector Ministry, the National Security, the Inspector-General of Police and the Office of the President but nothing has been done about the matter.
He warned that if nothing was done there was the likelihood that the youth might clash with the company’s armed land guards, which could be dangerous.
He called on the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Ghana Police Service to, within 14 days, withdraw any licence (s) granted to the company to avoid any mayhem.
More to come…