Business News of 2014-06-13

Ashanti Region: Galamsey destroying environment

The Ashanti Region is well-known for its acclaimed gold deposits, and one town well-noted for gold mining activities is Obuasi. But unknown to many, there are other towns in Ashanti with rich deposits of the ore.

Recently, a number of operators of small scale mining concessions, popularly referred to as galamsey, have descended on the Atwima Mponua District and are destroying arable lands and polluting water bodies in the area.

The Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Samuel Sarpong, in the company of a team from the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) on a tour of some affected areas, was appalled and incensed at the sight of large scale destruction of farmlands in addition to deep pits filled with heavily polluted water and a blockage of River Offin by galamsey operators.

He has, under the circumstances, called for a halt to all mining activities within the Atwima Mponua District henceforth, and directed that forthwith, all licences for such mining operations would have to be verified by a committee chaired by the Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister.

He said very soon, those high profile personalities behind the large scale pollution of water bodies through the galamsey operations, including chiefs and politicians, would be exposed.

Blockage of river

Due to the blockage of the River Offin for mining activities, farming communities on the banks of the river have become flooded. In fact, some areas are flooded to the neck level. This situation has forced some people to abandon their farms and communities to move to safe areas.

Because of the large area that the floods have covered, the minister and his entourage on a tour of the area to inspect the devastation caused as a result of galamsey activities had to abandon their plans and move to other areas where there was less destruction.

At Abesua Number One and Number Two, towns which both lie close to River Offin, the ministerial team, including reporters, found the inhabitants salvaging whatever they could save out of their properties into canoes to dry lands.

Ultimatum

Mr Sarpong has given a two-week ultimatum to licensed small scale mining groups to submit their documents to the Regional Security Council for scrutiny and proper identification of their concessions.

The committee formed to verify documents, he explained, would look critically at all permits and that those found to be mining close to river bodies and destroying the environment without authorisation would be prosecuted.

Security in action

The Ashanti Regional Police Commander, DCOP Nathan Kofi Boakye, and a team of policemen and officers from the military who accompanied the Ashanti Regional Minister on the tour arrested 39 people at two galamsey sites, including Benjamin Dadzie and Stephen Danso, who were found to be in possession of two pump action guns and a number of rounds of ammunitions.

Considering the huge size of the Offin river that had been blocked and the extent of destruction that had taken place, Mr Sarpong expressed dismay at the decision of authorities who gave out mining licences and other permits for the large scale destruction that had taken place. Indeed, large swathes of forest and cocoa farms that served as the main source of livelihood for the inhabitants are completely gone.

Food security

In his address to the media after the inspection tour, the minister said reports reaching him indicated that living conditions were so bad that the people in the mining communities had to buy sachet water to bath, cook and drink.

He bemoaned the fact that areas in Ashanti that used to send foodstuffs to cities and towns all over the country were now ‘importers’ of food and now depended heavily on rice, gari and vegetables brought from Kumasi.

Interestingly, throughout the tour, the galamsey operators who were approached did not show signs of being afraid and did not make any attempt to run away from the security agencies when the team from REGSEC got to their areas of operations. In fact, some of them were busy working, pretending they had not seen the armed police and military personnel.