Galamsey miners fight ChinaGold Company
5/11/2012 3:30:06 PM -
By William N-lanjerborr Jalulah
A ground-breaking ceremony, which would have followed the construction of a bridge over the Oun River at Gbane in the Talensi-Nabdam District of the Upper East Region, turned violent when some disgruntled small scale miners, known as 'galamsey' operators in the local parlance, stormed the event venue and destroyed several properties of ChinaGold (Gh) Resources Group Limited running into several millions of dollars.
As if that was not enough, the disgruntled operators advanced and invaded the concession of the company, vandalising and setting ablaze any property in sight. They also disabled some of the machines and looted several belongings of the company.
After their preliminary assessment of the damage caused to properties at Vertical Shaft 2, one of the many departments of the company, it was revealed that apart from the diamond drill rig (a drilling machine) which was burnt to ashes, other machines and equipment were either damaged or stolen.
Five drilling machines were stolen, two winch panels damaged, one welding machine damaged, a sharpening machine stolen, two boxes of detonators stolen, a winch, electricals and accessories destroyed, two drums of engine oil, and unspecified amount of roofing sheets were also stolen by the hooligans.
The rest were parameter fence destroyed, blasting cables stolen, hose pipes removed, six metal pipes stolen, six iron rods stolen, chairs and canopies vandalised, and five bags of cement stolen.
The properties destroyed are said to run into several millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, the youth of the area have vowed to protect the remaining properties, as well as staff of the company. They believed some of the illegal operators who caused the mayhem were not natives of the area, and therefore anti-development.
Two Chinese workers and some Ghanaian workers sustained injuries as a result of the attack on them. The heartbroken Public Relations officer (PRO) of Shaanxi, Mr. Maxwell Wooma, dismissed claims by the local people that the company was going beyond its legally permitted area of operation.
Last month, the Assembly Member for the Gaare-Gbane Electoral Area, Mr. Bismark Zumah, led a demonstration of some community members, including the small scale miners, demanding an immediate halt of activities by the Chinese company and its local partners, because they claimed the activities were illegal.
But, briefing the media after the Wednesday's distances, lead Counsel for Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, a subsidiary of ChinaGold (Gh) Resources Group Limited, Mr. Joseph Kpemka, explained that the company started operations in the area three years ago, even though they had entered into an agreement with Yenyeya and Pubootaba Small Scale Mining Groups, six years ago, with the core business of providing technical support services to the two groups.
He said according Act 703 of Minerals and Mining Act of Ghana, foreigners are not to do small scale mining, as they are not allowed by law to be owners of small scale mines. However, that same law allows foreigners to provide service support with which local small scale miners operate.
Mr. Kpemka said Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited had been licensed by the Minerals Commission to provide mines support services to small scale miners. Support services include drilling, installation of equipment and provision of machinery.
According to him, the statutory bodies ensuring that the laws of Ghana are complied with were all involved in the granting of this license, including the Talensi-Nabdam District Assembly, and the Minerals Commission.
He said certain people who do not have the license to operate were the ones who took the law into their own hands to disrupt the company's operations.
He indicated that initially, the 'galamsey' operators took the company to the Tamale High Court, seeking the right to quash the agreement between the government of Ghana and Yenyeya and Pubootaba Small Scale Mining Groups, but the writ was dismissed with punitive cost against the illegal miners.
He said they dressed up the same issue in another form and presented it to the Bolgatanga High Court, which is yet to be determined.
Mr. Kpemka regretted that some of the leadership of those who were masterminding the disruption had actually entered into agreements with Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, subsequent to the day of the disruption, specifically the Unique Mining and Nontaaba Groups, and with huge consideration, the company had paid various sums of money ranging between GH¢20,000 and GH¢60,000 to some of those groups which were now agitating against the company.
The company also signed a formal agreement with them to cooperate with it to provide technical support.
The construction of the bridge is expected to cost GhinaGold, through its subsidiary, Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, millions of Ghana Cedis.
Some residents in the area told The Chronicle that every year people drown in the river when crossing because there is no bridge over it. Thus, one would have thought that irrespective of the differences the locals have with the company, they should have allowed the company to construct the bridge, and the issues looked into afterward.
Mr. Kpemka told reporters that through the mines support services, more than fifty million dollars had been invested in the installation of the processing plant, provision of furniture to local primary school in the community, and the donation of a number of vehicles to the statutory organisations within the region.
While commending the security officers for the intervention, and the Talensi-Nabdam district for its cooperation, Mr. Kpemka called on the government to intervene to allow the company carry out its legal business.
He hinted that as part of its long-term plan, the company would tar the road linking Bolgatanga and the Gbane community, and also put up schools.
Some of the perpetrators of the disruption, who also barricaded the road leading to the venue where the ground-breaking ceremony was to take place, were arrested by some community members and handed over to the police.
The police also made extra arrests bringing the total number of arrested persons to nine.