A security report accusing some prominent Ghanaians of engaging in illegal mining activities (galamsey) in the country has stirred controversy, as those named have categorically debunked the report and described it as lacking merit.
The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), in a recent 31-page report, named scores of chiefs, individuals and organisations from eight regions of the country as allegedly engaged in galamsey activities.
The report named the areas where illegal mining activities were widespread in the Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.
An alleged financier of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Bunyak Kolog, popularly known in Talensi as ‘Polo’, was also cited in the report for funding the activities of galamsey operators in the community.
It alluded to the threat posed to water bodies as a result of galamsey and said the Birim River that served many communities in the Eastern Region was under serious threat.
Prominent chiefs, including the Kwapiahene in the Ashanti Region and others in many towns and villages in the Western Region were found to be behind galamsey activities there too.
Chief executives of some institutions in the Western Region were also accused of involvement in the business, having been involved in alluvial and illegal surface mining at Twifo Praso, Beposo, Sekyere-Krobo, Sekyere-Didiso, Basase and Sekyere-Nsuta.
Some military officers and policemen were not left out in the report, having been accused of engaging in galamsey in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District, with the support of other people.
According to the report, checks revealed that there were no illegal mining activities in the Volta and the Greater Accra regions.
Meanwhile, the State Secretary of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council, Mr Daniel Marfo Ofori-Atta, has expressed disappointment at the report, with the reason that the report made a definite finding of fact against the people accused but in the case of the Okyenhene it said there was widespread perception that he was involved in galamsey.
“If this was, indeed, a conclusive finding of the BNI, we are more disappointed because can’t a whole national intelligence agency investigate but make conclusive findings based on perception?” he asked in an interview with the Daily Graphic.
He said there was a public attempt to label the Akyem Abuakwa area as a major galamsey area and in so doing smear the leadership of the traditional council, adding that the issue should be treated as a national crisis, instead of reducing it to a problem for a particular area.
Touching on the issue of the task force which the report said the Okyenhene had constituted to allegedly extort money from illegal miners in the area, Mr Ofori-Atta explained that about two months ago the Divisional Crime Officer of the Ghana Police Service in the East Akim District wrote to Ofori Panin Fie enquiring about the existence of such a task force and it was appropriately responded to.
No task force at Ofori Panin Fie
He explained that what the Okyenhene had was the Okyeman Environmental Brigade, established in 2008 when there was no galamsey in the Akyem Abuakwa area, for the purpose of dealing with the many illegal chainsaw operations in the area, but due to public complaints of harassment and extortion of money, the Akyem Abuakwa State Council took a decision to disband the brigade, adding that it still remained disbanded.
“We told the Divisional Police Command in our letter that they must deal with any persons or groups who engage in any activity in the name of the brigade,” Mr Ofori-Atta stated.
He indicated that the Okyenhene, concerned about the devastating effect of galamsey operations, had engaged the various state actors and institutions, including security chiefs, to assist in dealing with the menace and that he had made a formal complaint to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and the National Security to assist him in dealing with the problem.
“We take serious exception to the supposed BNI report which seeks to denigrate the Ofori Panin Stool by linking the Okyenhene to galamsey operations which remain a criminal act under the laws of Ghana,” the secretary submitted.
He further stated that the Okyenhene had consistently made public his position against mining in general and that he had clearly taken a principled position on all forms of mining, since it contributed nothing to the development of the country.
Mr Ofori-Atta took exception to a statement made by a former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, that there were mining activities 100 yards from the Okyenhene’s Palace.
He demanded an apology from the former minister, saying that Ofori Panin Fie was located in the middle of Kyebi and so it was impossible for any mining activity to go on there.
“We insist that his statement was reckless, unfortunate and irresponsible and that as a former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Fuseini cannot exclude himself from blame when it comes to the incidence of galamsey,” he added.
He said the Okyenhene had no control over the instruments of state power and that his role as an environmentalist was limited to advocacy and that Nananom of Akyem Abuakwa would state their position on the supposed report and present a petition to the BNI Director on the matter tomorrow.
Member of Parliament denies
For his part, Mr Baba, who was fuming when the Daily Graphic contacted him, denied engaging in galamsey and explained that in 2010 he applied to the Minerals Commission for a concession, which was granted in 2014 to expire in 2019.
He said it took him four years to have his application for the concession approved and since he lived in Accra, he left the concession to his family members to manage.
“I am surprised that without recourse to me the BNI would compile such a report. They should have gone to the Minerals Commission to enquire,” he said.
The MP stated that small-scale mining and galamsey were two different things and so for the BNI to come up with such a scandalous report was most unfortunate.
“What is annoying is that they are comparing what is happening in the southern part of the country, given the way water bodies are being destroyed, to what is happening in the north where small-scale mining is artisanal in nature,” Mr Baba noted.
According to him, what he promised the people in his campaign was to bring illegal miners together to form groups to help them acquire a licence to do legitimate work.
“I am prepared to sponsor you to the Minerals Commission to conduct your own investigations,” the legislator told the Daily Graphic.