Despite the war being waged against the pollution of our water bodies through illegal mining activities, the Assembly Member for Konkoum, near Tontontokrom in the Amansie South District of the Ashanti Region, is alleging that the District Assembly collects GH¢200 from each illegal miner using a chanfang for alluvial mining in the area.
Though the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Amansie South, Mr. Clement Opoku Gyamfi, would neither confirm nor deny that the assembly was collecting a levy from the illegal miners because he was not the Finance Officer of the Assembly, the Assembly Member, Yaw Amponsah, insisted during a phone interview with The Chronicle that the Assembly collected GH¢200 per year for each chanfang and GH¢2,500 per year for each excavator they were using for the illegal mining.
Information reaching The Chronicle indicates that illegal miners had allegedly seized 170 acres of mining concession owned by a multi-national mining firm, Asanko Gold, without any restraint and were briskly doing illegal mining on it.
Intelligence filtering in indicates that there were some ‘big people’ behind this development, who were reportedly using a section of the local people as surrogates to carry out their illegal activities. Information available to this paper suggests that within the last three months, stakeholders such as chiefs and the Assembly Member are deeply involved in this illegality.
The Constituency Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) for Amansie South, Akwasi Abu Bonsra, was also allegedly benefitting from the illegal operations.
Mr. Akwasi Abu Bonsra has, however, denied benefitting from the Konkuom galamsey (illegal mining) activities. In a phone interview with this reporter, he noted that as party Chairman, who is supposed to set an example for others to follow, he does not meddle in galamsey activities, and that the accusation against him was baseless.
The Chronicle understands that these illegal miners have polluted River Konkoum, rendering it unwholesome for the local people to drink. Checks conducted at Asanko Gold have established that the company was due to start operations on the seized land, but the activities of Yaw Amponsah, the Assembly Member, and his team have stymied the work of the mining company. Meanwhile, the original owners of the land are also threatening to take back the land from the mining company if it fails to mine the ore.
In an interaction with one of the land owners, who spoke on condition of anonymity, he expressed concern that their land had been taken away from them, yet they were not benefiting from it. He accused the Amansie South District Assembly of failing to stop the illegal mining operations.
The Assembly Member for Konkuom, Yaw Amponsah, who is being accused of leading the invasion into the Asanko Mines concession, exonerated the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Constituency Chairman, Akwasi Abu Bonsra, of any wrongdoing, insisting that it was the entire Konkuom community that was doing the illegal mining on the said concession.
“As we speak, the galamsey has enabled me to buy four trips of sand and 100 bags of cement to build quarters for the local police station. We have [a] police station, but we do not have quarters to serve as the place of abode for the police officers,” he said.
The Assembly Member further told The Chronicle that they were embarking on this development because when they informed the Assembly about their challenges, they were always told their request had not been captured in its budget.
Asked if Kwasi Abu Bonsra, the NPP Chairman for Manso, was benefitting from the proceeds of their operation, the Konkuom Assembly Member asserted: “The money does not go to [the] party Chairman, but I cannot tell you entirely what is happening. There are some authorities that we cannot ‘eat and ignore them’, but I cannot disclose their names. For all you know, there are some people who are not in support of what is happening and will, therefore, complain about what we are doing,” he told this reporter in Twi, which has been translated into English.
Contradicting himself, the Konkoum Assembly Member further told The Chronicle in Twi that “We have not given money to any chief or someone. The money that accrues from the galamsey operation is used for a particular purpose, and if it is not used, I keep the funds. We agree and use the funds that are not with me for road construction.”
The Assembly Member also revealed to this paper that there was a chieftaincy challenge at Tontokrom, which led to a misunderstanding at the initial stages of their galamsey operation. According to him, he (Yaw Amponsah) took a decision that since the traditional leaders had been split into three groups, each division should bring three representatives to join the committee, and they would get their shares of whatever they would get from their galamsey operation.
When The Chronicle further asked Yaw Amponsah if the Amansie South Assembly was aware of their galamsey activities, he responded yes, and explained that the Assembly had directed them to pay levies to it, including a levy on each excavator they were using.
Asked about the amount of money the Assembly charges per excavator, he responded that the Assembly takes GH¢2,500 for each excavator, and those with chanfang machines paid GH¢200.00 for one year. According to him, the Assembly issues official receipts in the form of a sticker to them, which they paste on their working machines.
Yaw Amponsah said: “In our last meeting with the Assembly, it came to [the] fore that we have to form another taskforce, with the police joining us. The reality is that before the taskforce gets to the site, the police had already taken the lead, and the miners will tell you the police have come for the money. It has been reported to the DCE for appropriate action.”
Mounting a spirited defence for leading an illegality, which Jubilee House has waged war on, Amponsah used the poor road networks in Manso as an excuse to engage in the galamsey, arguing; “Our roads have been awarded on contract, and yet nothing has been done about it.” The Assembly Member admitted that the local creek has been polluted, but blamed their predecessors for it.
Reached on phone, the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Amansie South, Mr. Clement Opoku Gyamfi, told The Chronicle that he cannot confirm whether the Assembly was taking levies from the Kokuom illegal mining operators. To him, that was the work of the District Finance Officer, adding that his primary responsibility was to authorise documents in the Assembly. “I cannot even crosscheck, until auditors bring documents and I read,” he added.
When The Chronicle drew his attention to the illegal mining operations going on at Konkuom, he said the issue came to his attention about three months ago, and he immediately sent military men to the village to stop them because he cannot superintend over the destruction of the environment. But as at the time of talking to this reporter, nobody had reported to him that the illegal miners had gone back to work. He argued that he cannot be everywhere, because he had about ninety communities under him. However, if an issue was brought to his attention, he would take action on it.
When he was asked whether Abu Bonsra was, indeed, benefitting from the Konkuom illegality, he noted that he had asked the party Chairman on several occasions about his involvement in the Konkuom issue, and Chairman Abu had denied it. Mr. Clement Opoku Gyamfi, however, denied that the land the illegal mining activity was going on belongs to Asanko Gold. Responding to a question about what the Assembly intends doing to halt galamsey at Konkuom, he answered that he would deploy security men to the site.