Speculative activities on the Newmont Ahafo North project concessional area of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) in the Tano North Municipality of the Ahafo Region has slowed down operations of the multi-national mining company.
Though NGGL is ready to invest initial amount of US$850 million dollars into the mine, management of the Ahafo North project has suspended actual construction works, expected to be completed within two years due to difficulties in land access and illegal structures on the concession.
Already the world’s mining giant has secured environmental permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, but illegal activities had slowed down construction works, thereby denying the nation the optimum benefits of actual mining.
According to the company the Ahafo North project is expected to mine about 3.3 million ounces of gold in the area for a period of 13 years, which would improve the nation’s mining revenue and facilitate accelerated national development.
During a visit to the project enclave, several illegal structures, including fish ponds, thatched and block buildings, were sighted on the company’s concessional area covering five local communities of Terchire, Afrisipakrom, Susuanso, Yamfo and Adrobaa.
The Ghana News Agency (GNA) gathered some residents and other farmers around the enclave took advantage of the Ahafo project to cash in and thus put up the illegal structures to obtain compensation, as the company undertakes main construction works.
According to some resident farmers in the area, the expectant owners of the illegal structures in the local communities are however. irritated due to the delays in the execution of the project.
This is because they had invested hugely in undertaking the speculative activities which would probably yield the required or expected returns.
Speaking in an interview with the GNA, Mr Richard Yeboah, the Youth Chairman of Terchire, one of the project’s affected communities, condemned such illegal activities, saying the situation had not only slowed down payment of compensation to the genuine farmers and property owners, but also the project commencement as well.
“I think the current situation is very bad and highly condemnable. Even people from elsewhere have taking advantage of the mine, negotiated with farmers and constructed several structures here and other localities to obtain undue compensation”, he stated.
But, Mr Samuel Osei, the Communications and External Affairs Manager, Newmont Ahafo North Project and Newmont Ahafo South Mine, said the company had GHC45 million and was paying a ‘relief support package’ for the owners of the illegal structures.
Though structures on the concession are illegal, Mr Osei explained payment of the package was to relief the illegal property owners of some level of financial stress, and also to pave the way for the company to demolish the structures.
Mr Osei told reporters when he conducted Dr Sulemanu Koney, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Chamber of Mines round the Ahafo North mine concession at Terchire that the company, was expected to demolish about 9,721 illegal structures on the concession.
Accompanied by some members of the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), Dr. Koney and other key staff of the Chamber, the tour on the company’s concessions was to round up his two-day visit to acquaint himself with the operations of the Mine.
Earlier, Dr. Koney paid a courtesy call and interacted with Mr George Boakye, the Ahafo Regional Minister at Goaso, the regional capital, and later visited the company’s Ahafo South plant site where he held close door discussions with some key staff of the Mine.
Mr. Osei explained in 2017 the company declared the enclave a mining area, which meant that nobody had the right to put up any structure on the concession, while the company finalised modalities to pay compensation on existing structures.
In that regard, he explained the company posted notices in the affected communities, but added that some of the residents ignored and engaged in the speculative activities on the mine’s concession.
He, therefore, expressed the hope that communities around the mine would cooperate with the company for construction work to begin to pave the way for actual mining.
Mr. Sylvester Amankwaa Koranteng, the Coordinator of the Ahafo North Relief Support Secretariat, an inter-governmental agency set up to facilitate the payment of the relief package to the farmers, said GHC23 million had so far been paid for 1,400 of the illegal structures.
So far, the highest beneficiary received GHC335,505 and the lowest GHC28,000, depending on values of the structures.
The agency comprised representatives of the government, Newmont Ahafo North project, Ahafo Regional Coordinating Council and the local communities.
Mr. Koranteng said though majority of beneficiaries were cooperating, few of them had rejected because they were not satisfied.
On his part, Dr. Koney lauded Newmont for taking the decision to alleviate the plight of the people, saying that would greatly help build cordial relationship with the local people and create peaceful atmosphere for the mine to operate in the area.
He expressed regret that speculative activities in mining areas were hampering mining investment in the country, and called for concerted efforts to control the appalling practices.
Dr. Koney indicated the benefits of mining outweighed the negative, saying the commencement of the Ahafo North project would make the Ahafo region a mining hub that would not only open but also attract international and local investors into the area to spur rapid socio-economic growth.
He, therefore, entreated the local communities to build and deepen friendly relationships with the company for the nation to get optimum benefit from the Mine.