Regional News of 2014-04-22

Bui Dam faces danger as illegal miners defy ultimatum

The inhabitants of Dokokyina who live close to the Bui Dam have defied the two-week ultimatum given them to vacate the village due to their illegal mining and fishing activities.

There are no indications the residents including nationals from Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and China are moving out of the area though the Brong-Ahafo Regional Security Council warned them of forceful eviction if they failed to move by April 14.

According to the Bui Power Authority (BPA), the $600 million Dam that produces 400 megawatts of power faced danger because of the illegal mining activities on at its fringes.

It could be polluted and silted which could lead to its destruction because the illegal miners are using heavy duty and earth-moving machines in their operations.

Inhabitants of six villages in the catchment area of the Dam were relocated by the BPA in 2011 to pave way for the construction of the Dam but six households at Dokokyina refused to relocate.

The population of Dokokyina has increased from 15 occupants of the six households to an estimated population of more than 6,000 people.

While some of the residents were preparing for their normal illegal mining activities, others were also seen getting ready to go for fishing in the Dam’s prohibited reservoirs. There were also brisk trading activities as traders sold alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages with few chop bars operators also at post.

At some of the illegal mining sites, heavy duty and earth-moving machines were seen parked confirming that the illegal miners use them in their operations and big pits, dug by the illegal miners, were visible in the area.

Though attempts to speak to some of the illegal miners were not successful, many of them were seen wielding offensive instruments and other sophisticated firearms.

According to some of local people in the area, gold dealers and small scale miners often come to the community to buy the raw gold from the miners.

A resident stated that selling of raw gold was not a problem and dealers bought sand they suspect to contain gold.

Mr Wumbilla Salifu, the External and Community Relations Manager of the BPA, said the presence of the illegal miners was a great worry to the BPA.

According to him, the water level in the reserviour had decreased and illegal miners are prospecting for gold in it but when the water level rises chemicals they used would be washed into the reserviour.

Mr Salifu said the illegal miners are gradually removing the vegetative cover and there was the possibility that soil would be washed into the reserviour and eventually silt it.

He appealed to National Security to move in immediately and evict the illegal miners including residents of the village before they succeed to kill the Dam. Mr Salifu said REGSEC had been in the area twice but there were no clear signs that the people were ready to move and added “their operations have reached dangerous dimension need prompt intervention of by National Security.”

A senior citizen who wants to remain anonymous told the GNA “Sometimes it is strange how things happen in this country. This is a huge national asset that is facing danger. We know what to do but we are doing nothing. We are allowing a few people irresponsible people to hold the nation to ransom. God save us.”