From Isaac Akwetey-Okunor, Akwatia
Two youth groups in Akwatia, the capital of Denkyembour District in the Eastern Region, are divided over the operations of the Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited (GCDGL), following the take-over of the concession of the company by alleged illegal mining operators, popularly known as ‘Galamseyers’.
The two youth groups, calling themselves Concerned Youth of Akwatia and Akwatia Development Association (AkDA), are engaged in accusations and counter-accusations.
The Akwatia Development Association (AkDA) is convinced that the miners are carrying on their illegal mining activities at some strategic locations of the company, including where the bungalows and residents of the management and staff of the company are located.
Members of the Akwatia Development Association disclosed that, apart from the illegal mining activities, the management of the company is also selling parts of the machinery of the company it inherited as scrap.
Addressing a news conference at Akwatia, the Vice President of the AkDA, Mr. Kwadwo Obeng Darko, called on the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) and the government to fast-track the processes of taking over the company from GCDGL to save it from total collapse.
The group also pleaded with Parliament to delegate the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy to pay an unannounced visit to the mining site of GCDL to observe things for itself.
The leadership of AkDA further appealed to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mining for an investigation to be launched into galamsey activities currently ongoing at the site.
Meanwhile, another group, calling itself ‘Concerned Youth of Akwatia’, is accusing the members of the Akwatia Development Association of playing politics with the plight of the people of Akwatia.
According to the group, members of the AkDA are going round using old pictures of the company to deceive the general public into believing that the company is ‘collapsing’.
Speaking to the media, Mr. Samuel Debrah, Chairman of the group, said the pictures being shown around by the AkDA group were taken before 2016, and called on the members of the AkDA to stop playing politics with the plight of the people.
Explaining what is happening at the GCDGL with current mining activities, Mr. Yaw Opoku, Secretary of the ‘Concerned Youth of Akwatia’, stated that the company, since time immemorial, has been giving out some portions of its concessions to individuals to mine for a fee.
“There are some places they know that when they mine using their heavy machinery, they will run at a loss, so they give such places to individuals with the capacity to mine, and give a percentage to the company,” he claimed.
He continued: “This arrangement has always existed, even before the sale of the original GCD to GCDGL, and we find it amazing that these people, who have benefitted from [a] similar arrangement in the past, will be raising red flags now.
“The people working there are not galamseyers. They have their licenses; they went for the government training at UMAT, Tarkwa, and have the capacity to do what they are doing. They are employing people from this community, so why try to tarnish their image?” he added.
Mr. David A. Kwarshie, General Secretary of the AkDA, stated that the DIC, in a letter dated April 9, 2019, wrote to the GCDGL revoking the contract of sale on the basis of non-payment of the balance of the sale price, and, among others, indicated its preparedness to re-enter and take possession of the assets.
He said selling parcels of lands to small scale miners, who pay between GH¢50,000 to GH¢70,000 to the company when the DIC has written to take over the same company, is a complete illegality, and also amounted to extortion. He maintained that the people buying the lands are engaging in illegal mining.
Sometime in 2010, the Government of Ghana, through the Divestiture Implementation Committee, sold the assets of the then Ghana Consolidated Diamonds Limited, which was then solely owned by the government, to the Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited (GCDGL), which is associated with Mr. Joseph Siaw Agyepong of the Jospong Group of Companies.
The government, at the time, entered into an Asset Sale and Purchase Agreement with GCDGL, and as part of the terms of the said contract, the assets of GCD were sold to GCDGL for $17,000,000 upon certain terms and conditions.
However, as at 5th December, 2011, GCDGL only made part payment of $2,700,000 according to the sale contract executed by the parties. GCDGL has since not made any payment to the government.
As results of the fallouts from the inactions of the company’s non-performance, there have been joblessness, incessant school dropouts, and petty thievery in the area. Others include prostitution among the youth, and low educational achievements in the district.
As at November last year, the GCDGL owed Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), an electricity transmission company, more than GH¢5 million (US$1 million), which compelled the company to disconnect power to the mining company.
Reaction of the Managing Director of GCDGL
But the Managing Director (MD) of GCDGL, Mr Enock Baah, has rubbished the position of the Akwatia Development Association, suggesting that some illegal small scale mining operators had taken over the concession of his outfit.
Mr. Baah indicated that as a man of integrity and law-abiding citizen who has contributed his quota to the well-being of the country, he would be the last person to lease the concession of GCDGL to illegal small scale miners to prospect for diamond, considering the destructive activities of illegal miners.
Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, Mr Baah explained that the current mining activities ongoing at the GCDGL are not illegal, stressing that in the law, the company is supposed to lease some portions of its concessions to the local people at Akwatia to mine.
According to him, this arrangement has always existed, even before the sale of the original GCD to GCDGL. He is, therefore, surprised that these people, who have benefitted from similar arrangements in the past, would be accusing the company wrongly without justifiable reasons, just to tarnish his reputation.
Mr. Baah also denied allegations of his involvement in the sale of old machines of the company as scrap to scrap dealers, saying that to best of his knowledge, the sale of the old machines and equipment as scrap were done by his predecessors before he assumed office in 2018.
He stressed that the allegations were part of well-coordinated plans, ostensibly hatched by some disgruntled stakeholders at Akwatia who are not be able to get chance to work with the new management of the company.
Mr. Baah disclosed that when he took over the administrative affairs of GCDGL, after the owner of the company laid off the old management for non-performance, he inherited huge debts, including electricity to the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), leading to the disconnection of power to the entire company.
He indicated that the GCDGL also owed workers their monthly salaries, but gave an assurance of working assiduously with the management and stakeholders to settle all outstanding debts in order to put the company on a good path.