Ghana: Tension Mounts in Mining Community Over Attempted Takeover

Asoma Kyeremeh, Ghana’s Minister of Lands and Natural Resources

July 27, 2020//-The decision by Benviko Company Limited to forcefully take over a 75-acre mining concession belonging to Kaasmil Mining Company Limited with only a prospecting license with the support of the District Chief Executive and the Military has brought heavy tension at Tontokrom, a town in the Amansie South District of the Ashanti Region.

Sources indicate that though Benviko has no mining lease, the company has succeeded in taking charge of the concession and engaging in active mining of gold in the area.

Sources have also indicated that negotiations are currently ongoing between the Chief Executive of Benviko Company, Ben Owusu Achiaw to sell the same concession to Asanko Mines, a large-scale mining company.

With only a prospecting license, Benviko has been mining gold actively on the land for about two years with the support of the District Chief Executive, William Bediako, and the District Police Command together with some unidentified military personnel being housed by the DCE.

Though the regional Security Coordinator, and the Regional Police command have given Kaasmil the go ahead to continue with its legal mining activities, the DCE, sources say continue to resist the move.

Internal contractions and sabotage

Current events and actions offering in the Amansie South District of the Ashanti Region regarding the conduct of government officials and their pronouncements on the issue of small scale mining rights and activities within the district clearly demonstrate a clear contradiction, sabotage and open antipathy of personnel and agencies of the central government against the policy of fighting the menace of illegal mining popularly called “Galamsey “.

Currently festering manifestly in the Amansie South District with the capital at Manso Adubia , headed by the District Chief Executive , William Bediako, is the imminent perpetration of these acts  initiated by the DCE and Ben Owusu Achiaw, managing director of  Benviko.

William Bediako (DCE) is a government appointee and his friend Ben Owusu Achiaw is said to be the chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The said Benviko company limited  is currently holding an agreement with the government acting by then Minister of Lands and Natural Resources John Peter Amewu granting it” the right and license to prospect for and prove gold under the licensed area “ for a term of three years from 31st March 2018 ( Prospecting Agreement and not Mining  Permit).

In spite of the limitation of the permit granted Benviko  company limited to only prospect for gold and report back to the Minister , the District Chief Executive  is said to have condoned and connived  with  its Managing Director  to jointly take over the concession belonging to Kaasmil mining  company which has been granted permission since 2013 to mine  and to produce gold and diamond in a defined concession.

In addition it has been given concession identity numbers, clearance  by the EPA, clearance  after vetting by IMCIM, certification to operate by the ASDA, and  permit by the Chief Inspector of Mines  to operate in the said concession  at Tontokrom.

The two are carrying out their said unlawful and illegal mining under the guise of governmental support and by force of armed police and Army officers and civilian thugs with impunity.

The DCE has been recently captured on video instigating and encouraging the chiefs and people of Manso Tontokrom at a public gathering to shoot to kill anybody who would resist their galamsey operations.

He justified his said provocative orders that galamsey was the people’s source of wealth and neither he nor any officer or official of government would prevent the people from doing the galamsey business.

He in fact boasted that he had the support and encouragement of high-ranking party and government officials to encourage and engage in galamsey operations in the district.

The District Chief Executive of Amansie South, William Bediako in an interview, which was recorded on tape said he received a call from the seat of government to protect Benviko and that he had no interest in Benviko.

He said he is doing what he was told to do. He said he sees nothing problematic regarding his visit to  the home of the Energy Minister, John Peter Amewu with the owner of Benviko to discuss issues relating to the mining concession.

“I only use the military in my house. The police and the Military are only in my house, they are not on the field as the people are claiming”, he stated.

 What Minerals Commission said

The Chief Executive officer of the Minerals Commission Kweku Addai Antwi Boasiako , in an interview clarified that  it is illegal and criminal for any company to use a prospecting license to engage in active mining like what Benviko is  doing .

“Any company that will use a prospecting license to do active mining of gold is engaging in an illegal and a criminal activity and must be dealt with severely”.

He said he has no knowledge about any ongoing negotiation between Benviko Company Limited and Asanko Mines. Mr Addai added that the minerals Commission does not involve itself in any direct negotiation between two parties.

According to him the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources comes in only when the negotiations between the parties are completed and the Minister of lands and Natural Resources is presented with the document to study and approve.

What the chief said

Nana Tonto who is the chief of Tontokrom availed himself for an interview to explain issues related to intimidation and attacks being meted out to the indigenes in the area.

He blamed the District Chief Executive for the area for instigating violence in the area.

Nana Tonto speaking through his lawyer, Nana Obiri Boahene, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party, several letters were written to the Minerals Commission to report the illegal activities of Benviko with the military and Police Personnel but nothing was done about it.

“A lot of people are dying in mining pits in the area due to their illegal mining activities but everybody is quiet and is doing nothing about it.  What sort of country at all is this where people condone illegality?

I am appealing to the president to initiate investigations into the issue and punish the perpetrators. Why should the DCE declare openly that he supports illegal mining at a time that the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo has vowed to put his presidency as risk in a bid to fight and end illegal mining? That means he does not respect the president and must be punished for that.

Reactions from Asanko Mines

The managing Director of Asanko Mines,Fred Attakuma in an interview with this said he is not aware of any ongoing negotiations between the management of Asanko Mines and Benviko  to take over the 75 acre concession at Tontokrom,.

He said he needed time to check with his exploration team to find out if some negotiations are ongoing.

Several attempts were made to speak to the managing director of Benviko company , Ben, Owusu Achiaw on the issue but be failed to respond to all the phone calls , and WhatsApp messages sent to him. The investigative team is still working to get in touch and get his reaction.

From Kwabena Adu Koranteng 

 

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