STORY: KORYEKPOR AWLESU FREEMAN, BACK FROM OSINO, Eastern region of Ghana.
Information reaching Today newspaper indicates that activities of Solar Mining Company, a local gold mining company operating within the Fanteakwa District of the Eastern Region have culminated in the pollution of the Anoma and Akusu rivers within the township.
This paper gathered that the usage of mercury by Solar Mining Company for its mining operations along the streams leading to the above rivers has resulted in the blockage to the livelihood of communities that depend on the said rivers.
The affected communities, about six in number, are therefore desperately appealing to government and stakeholders in the mining industry to quickly relocate them to forestall any eventuality.
According to the residents in these communities, namely Saaman, Juaso, Bunso, Nsutam, Nkawkwa and others dotted along the affected areas, they can no longer bear the numerous challenges they face as a result of the mining activities.
Solar Mining in recent times has been whirled in a lot of controversies after it used mercury and other dangerous chemicals to pollute Anoma and Akusu rivers, the two main sources of drinking water in the communities, which resulted in the death of the controversial “six fish.”
Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (Wacam), a mining advocacy non-governmental organization, recently issued a press statement, calling on the central government to take a second look at the mining activities of Solar Mining but to no avail.
According to Wacam, the people in the afore-mentioned communities are farmers who usually engage in the production of food crops such as maize, cocoyam, cassava and cocoa, but over the years the mining company has destroyed their natural resources and vast arable land making standard of living of the people in the area nothing to write home about.
But Solar Mining had insisted that it never used mercury or dangerous chemical in its mining operation.
In the midst of these controversies, some inhabitants together with the Assemblyman of the area, Hon. Gyeatuo Kyenkyenku, have pointed accusing fingers at the Chief of Saaman, Barima Okuampa Agyemang, for being in supreme support of Solar Mining to pollute their rivers and destroy natural resources and vast arable lands.
But the Chief of Saaman, Barima Okuampa Agyemang, when contacted, confirmed the unacceptable mining activities of Solar Mining but flatly denied the allegation of his support to the company to pollute their rivers and destroyed natural resources and vast arable lands.
Nana Barima Okuampa Agyemang, 74, said though he did not stay in the area, at no time did he support unacceptable activities that could inflict poverty on his people.
But, a fact-finding mission embarked on by Today to the affected communities, tells a sordid story of a lot more affected fishes being killed and rivers being polluted as a result of the dangerous chemicals the company used in its operation.
Contrary to the assertions that the mining company does not use mercury in its operation, this paper can disclose signs of mercury or other suspected dangerous chemicals scattered along the incident areas where sources of drinking water were located.
And although Solar Mining has provided a poly tank to serve the water needs of the affected communities, a lot of questions could be raised about its safety.
The poly tank had been placed unguarded in a middle of a thick bush, about some 300 metres from the nearest communities.
Residents told Today that when the pollution of their rivers occurred, they suggested to the mining companies to provide each community a poly tank to guarantee the safety of their drinking water, but rather fell on deaf ears.
In an exclusive interview with the Assemblyman of the area, Hon. Gyeatuo Kyenkyenku, confirmed that since the operations of Solar Mining in Saaman and its adjacent communities use mercury or other dangerous chemicals for its operations which pollute Anoma and Akusu rivers.
“We the people in Saaman are farmers who usually engage in the production of food crops such as maize, cocoyam, cassava and cocoa, but over the years the company has destroyed our natural resources and vast arable land making standard of living nothing to write home about.”
He averred that since the company commenced its “irresponsible operations in December 2008, it has diverted River Akusu and Anoma and mined in it,” adding that the company put rusted narrow iron pipes in the two rivers, until 2010 when the Eastern Regional Director of EPA, Mr Addo- Okyere, ordered the company to remove the rusted pipes.
According to him, the company dug big man-holes along the two rivers which, he said, do not only serve as death traps to farmers but also serve as mosquito breeding grounds.
Contaminated water from the pits, he noted, discharge into the afore-mentioned river courses, thus polluting them and making them unsafe for drinking.
He noted that Mr Okyere upon realising in May 2010 that Solar Mining had no EPA permit and mining permit ordered for the shutdown of mining operations of the company but the company unfortunately still continued with its illegal operations.
He indicated that in a recent meeting organised by the Saaman chief and his elders including the opinion leaders, a consensus was reached that Solar Mining Company/Kibi Goldfields must evacuate their mining equipment from Saaman stressing that a letter to that effect is ready to be sent to the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Samuel Odalai Lamptey.
“In Saaman, cocoa farming is our business; we are able to finance our children’s education from the sales of cocoa and cash crops like oil palm. We are an agricultural community and we want to remain as farmers hence Saaman opposes surface gold alluvial mining even if Solar is issued with the necessary mining permit,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Wacam, Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, has rubbished allegations by a section of youth from Saaman-Juaso that he (Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng) runs the operations of Wacam as a family business together with his wife, Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng.
He described the allegations as baseless and lacked credibility, saying that the allegation was a calculated ploy by some rented youth in the area to discredit him and his family.
“Wacam is a registered mining advocacy non-governmental organisation with its workers from different societies in the country,” he explained