Angry Youths Accuse Asanko Mines of Denying Them Jobs
…As Tontokrom Residents Begs Gov’t For Community Mining Scheme
Hundreds of youths from Tontokrom and its surrounding communities in the Amansie South District in the Ashanti Region are up in arms, accusing mining firm Asanko Gold Mines, of denying them the opportunity to work and feed their families.
According to them, several applications to government to launch its flagship Community Mining Scheme in the area, with a population of over 10,000 youths, to get job, have been blocked by the management of Asanko, leaving many of them idle and roaming about.
They mentioned that even though the portion of the land the youth are asking for to be used for the project is just a small area, less than 20 acres, which is just one concession, the South African mining giant is still not ready to release it to help the youth get a job.
Leader and spokesperson of the youth, Kwabena Animoyam, told The Anchor in an interview that the conduct of the Asanko mines against the people of Tontokrom leaves much to be desired.
“Asanko doesn’t want us to have the community mining in the area so they have been parading the town with soldiers. Last month, they were here in their numbers and so the residents had to flee from the town out of fear. The media has reported it extensively.
“So, we will plead with the government that the youth in this mining area have no work so if they have instituted this laudable Community Mining scheme, they should come and launch one here. Because, we are Ghanaians and we don’t want to engage in galamsey. If someone lives near the sea, it is the sea they get their daily bread from,” Kwabena lamented.
They indicated that the establishment of the scheme will offer the youth decent employment opportunities and also cease from the persistent clashes with the mining firm.
The outspoken youth leader also did not understand why Asanko, a company owned by South Africans, will use Ghanaians to do these to indigenes.
According to him, it was unacceptable for total strangers to have jobs and be protected by both police and soldiers, but same cannot be said about the indigenes.
“Where is the law that says a concession to large scale should be accompanied with another license for small scale mining? We cannot go into armed robbery. This is what is due us but they are taking it away from us. So, we plead with government to come to our aid,” he said.
Their call follows a recent peaceful demonstration organized during the launch of the Community Mining Scheme at Atwimanso community by a deputy minister of Lands and Natural Resources, George Mireku Duker.
The youth, numbering more than 400, wielding placards, had stormed the programme to communicate their grievances and request to the deputy minister to have the programme launched in their community too.
The youth, who thanked the deputy minister and the government for the initiative in the adjoining town, said it would be much appreciated if the gesture is extended to the over 10, 000 population in Tontokrom.
Mr.Duker, who is in-charge of Mining, before his speech, took time to address the youth, assuring them that he has taken into account their plea and so will task the district chief executive (DCE) and the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area to look into their concerns and take the necessary action.
Government, in 2019, launched the implementation of Community Mining Scheme, in place of illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, to create thousands of decent jobs for the youth.
The scheme, government argued, was the answer to galamsey operations, which were destroying water bodies and farmlands.
So far, areas, in Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions, have all benefitted from the programme offering the youth jobs.
But the angry youth said, their call, coming on the back of several applications to the authorities, including the Minerals Commission, to have some of the land allocated to them for legal small-scale mining, fell on deaf ears.
According to Kwabena, the youth cannot continue to be unemployed when they have such a natural resource at their disposal.
He said the area has about 50 concessions, but which have allegedly been allocated to different companies in the past years for prospecting.
Putting the issue into proper perspective and giving the historical background, as far as mining was concerned, Kwabena said that, for years, government granted-small scale mining license to a company, called Calsmill, in the 1990s.
But in the course of their operations, residents began to suffer from some skin diseases, including Buruli Ulcer, which was attributed to some of the chemicals that were used for their work.
An investigation was launched into the activities of the company by government.
In the year 2000, there were series of demonstrations staged against the company and so the unfavourable nature of the area, forced the company to vacate the area for good.
After their departure, another company, Ghana GPS, managed by Russians and Ukrainians, also surfaced taking over the area. Ghana GPS also mined gold, even though, Kwabena says, their documents were not genuine until 2016 after the general election.
“We were informed in 2017 by the new government that they had no license to mine gold, so they were sacked.” When the land was left for a brief moment, the residents frequented the place to do some alluvia mining of a sort,” he said.
He said that, not long after that, a politically exposed person by name Ben Viko also emerged announcing that he has been granted prospecting license and that he has combined three concessions to engage in large scale mining.
All this while, the residents were left out of the concessions, even though the unemployment rate in the area was widespread.
“No one questioned the genuineness of his documents,” Kwabena said, adding that the company first brought people from outside who engaged in the prospecting business.
But along the line, he said,the company workers clashed with the residents who went on the land to find their daily bread, and so Ben Viko later stormed the area with soldiers to protect the land.
The residents had to flee for their lives for close to a month due to the presence of the military in the community, who allegedly terrorized the people.
This, The Anchor gathered, resulted in the residents’ decision to come together to pick forms for this Community Mining license, after its introduction in 2019.
Interestingly, Ben Viko has allegedly also sold his prospecting license to Asanko Mines. But the residents are in disagreement because, they say, prospecting license is not the same as mining lease.
Asanko, which has taken over the area, is allegedly busily fighting against their quest to have the scheme in the area.
According to him, there is something called ‘social license’ whereby the company that has been granted the so-called license engages the community they seek to mine, but none of such has been done.
Kwabena claimed the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) and other institutions in the mining sector, who are supposed to inspect the areas before the commencement of these mining activities, appear not to have done their work.
“But what we are seeing today is, you will be there then out of the blue, your house is marked for collapse because the land is going to be used for mining,” he explained.
Efforts by The Anchor to get management of Asanko Gold Mines for their side of the story proved futile at the time of going to press, as several calls to Vodafone’s 031 200 3040 telephone line the paper managed to secure, went through, but without answer.