Confusion broke out between Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and aggrieved residents within its Ahafo North Mine catchment areas at a community engagement, held at Afrisipakrom in the Tano North Municipality.
The visibly angry residents, drawn from Adrobaa, Techire, Yamfo, Susuanso, and Afrisipakrom challenged the Company’s declaration of a moratorium on its concessions in the area.
Tempers were, however, flared, as the Company and the residents could not understand each other on portions of the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2019, Act 995 in the presence of some armed Police personnel.
Consequently, the community engagement aimed at addressing pressing issues relating to operations of the Mine in the area, nearly ended abruptly, as both parties could not build consensus.
It was organised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and attended by traditional leaders in the five mining communities.
While the Company maintained it had since 2017 declared moratorium warding-off residents from the concessional area, the residents insisted they were unaware of that pronouncement.
Some of them told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) the Company did not go through the laid-down procedures, saying, until that was done they would not allow the Company to commence operations in the area.
They said the Company had no right to take over their farmlands without facilitating payments of adequate compensations to the affected farmers, stressing that they had several properties that would be directly or indirectly affected by the Mine’s operations.
It is, however, unclear if their demands would be met, as the Company insisted on its earlier decision, and re-affirmed most of the activities on the concessional area, including several fish ponds and structures, were speculative structures put up by the residents.
The residents, therefore, called on the government to intervene and ensure that their crops and properties were well-evaluated, and the required compensation is paid to them in the interest of peace in the area.
Mr. Joseph Danso, the Social Responsibility/Land Access Regional Manager of the Ahafo Mine, explained the Company held a meeting with the communities in 2017 and announced to them “Ahafo North had been declared as a mining area”.
“Per Act 995, the moment an area is declared as a mining area, restrictions are placed on the mining concessions”, he added.
According to him, the said meeting held at Sunyani in September 2017 was attended by about 41 community representatives, adding, the Company followed it up and posted notices in all the five communities about the Mine’s decision.
“After declaration, nobody was allowed to undertake any activity on the mining concession”, he explained, saying interested farmers ought to seek permission from the Company before they could farm on the concession.
Mr. Danso said following several other engagements with the communities, about 200 farmers within the Mine’s enclave applied and sought permission to work on the concession, pending when the Company would commence actual mining.
But, Mr. Bismarck Adjin Frimpong, the Chairman of the Resettlement Negotiation Committee (RNC) at Afrisipakrom indicated the Company breached earlier agreements it made with the communities.
“We held a meeting with the Company and they told us that very soon the mine would declare a moratorium on its concession and facilitate payments of compensation on affected crops and structures”, he said.
“So we are extremely surprised that the Company is now informing us about the supposed declaration of a moratorium on the concession”.
“Anyway, we are not in the position to accept that and until Newmont declares a moratorium publicly on the concessional area and pay affected farmers and properties owners the required compensation, there is no way the company can operate in the area”, Mr. Frimpong stated.
Earlier, Mr. Ransford Sakyi, the Deputy Executive Director in-charge of Operations at the EPA, advised the residents to cooperate with the Company and iron-out their differences for mutual benefit.
As a referee and key stakeholder institution, he assured the EPA would do everything possible to ensure that the right thing was done, and advised the residents to remain calm.
Nana Ansah Adu-Baah, the Paramount Chief of Yamfo Traditional Area and President of the Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs advised the affected residents to table their concerns and grievances and endeavour to pass through appropriate procedures in seeking redress and avoid tendencies that could mar the prevailing peace of the area.
He also appealed for more engagements between the EPA, NGGL, and the mining communities so that the right thing would be done to create a peaceful atmosphere for the mining company to operate.