A comment by President Nana Akufo-Addo that Akonta Mining, a company owned by the Ashanti Region Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party, is not engaged in illegal mining has stirred controversy.
Addressing the Catholic Bishops Conference and 16th Biennial Congress of the National Union of Ghana Catholic Diocesan Priests Association in Koforidua in the Eastern Region, President Akufo Addo stated;
“Let me respond briefly to the chairperson on the issue of illegal mining. I want to assure him and all of you that Akonta Mining is not engaged in any unlawful activities in any part of the country as we speak.
“Further, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has, through the Forestry Commission and with the assistance of the military, cordoned off all 294 sites of forest reserves in the country and rid them of illegal mining as we speak.”
This comment by the president was captured on TV3’s Facebook page and other online platforms.
The president was responding to an urgent call by the Convener for Media Coalition against illegal mining, Ken Ashigbey, for the IGP to arrest persons involved in illegal mining, particularly the workers of Akonta mining.
Some see the comments by the president as an attempt to clear his party man of any wrongdoing. Chairman Wuntumi, as he is popularly called, is also a major financier of the party.
But the Minister of Lands and Forestry, Samuel Abu Jinapor, in a Facebook post, offered a vehement defence and rationalisation of the president’s comments, emphasising the phrase “as we speak.” There were several media reports from that defence, as can be seen here.
Given how illegal mining, popularly called galamsey, has wreaked havoc on Ghana’s environment, particularly our green environment and river bodies, DUBAWA decided to explore the issue of galamsey with particular emphasis on Akonta mining and how the president’s comments may have complicated the fight against illegal mining.
What is illegal mining?
It is necessary first to establish what the law says about mining in Ghana and which mining activities can be classified as illegal.
In the constitution, Act 257(6) of the 1992 Constitution states, “Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for the people of Ghana.”
For the simple reason that minerals are vested in the president on behalf of the people, no one has the power to, on their own, mine or exploit the minerals without the due process of law.
Under Section 99 of the Offences and penalties of the Minerals and Mining Act 2019, a person who mines without a valid licence is deemed to be engaging in illegal mining.
Under the same law, a person who mines in or around water bodies or in forest reserves shall be deemed to be engaging in illegal mining.
The impact of illegal mining on Ghana’s environment and economy has been severe. Many water bodies and forest reserves have been destroyed to the point where stakeholders have begun a national campaign to fight the canker.
So is Akonta mining engaging in illegal mining?
Details about Akonta Mining Company are sketchy. A Facebook page with little information about the company was found, with no official reference to the owners.
However, there is a public acknowledgement of ownership by the Ashanti Region Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party Mr Bernard Antwi Boasiako.
Over the last couple of months, Akonta Mining has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with several accusations the company is involved in illegal mining.
DUBAWA has catalogued several reports in which Akonta Mining has been mentioned in illegal mining activities.
At a press conference, the youth of Samreboi swore to resist any attempt by illegal mine workers of Akonta mining to mine in the Nimiri Forest reserve
Several investigations by Joy News’ Erastus Asare Donkor cite Akonta Mining for galamsey activities. In his Destruction for Gold documentary, Asare Donkor chronicles several illegal mining activities that have destroyed Ghana’s environment. Part two of the Destruction for Gold documentary details the activities of Akonta Mining as well. Even though the company had applied to prospect for gold in the forest reserve, which is allowed, if due process is followed, it emerged that Akonta mining did begin exploiting the forest reserve in the name of mining for Gold.
So bad were the activities of Akonta mining that the Lands Ministry directed the company to stop its exploitation of the Nimiri forest.
Attempts by DUBAWA to speak to managers of the company proved futile. However, in a media report, the chairman of the Ashanti Region NPP and owner of Akonta mining has denied engaging in illegal mining.
Among other things, he claimed the company had a mining lease. To defend the company from the allegation of illegal mining, he submitted several letters to Joy News, some of which have been intercepted by DUBAWA. He insisted it was his company and mining concession that had suffered from illegal mining.
But the Mining Commission has been quick to rebut the claims by Akonta mining. In a statement published on its website, the Commission stated that Akonta Mining has a mining lease around the Samreboi enclave but has not been permitted to mine in the Tano river or the Forest reserve.
Akonta Mining is under prosecution
It appears the call for the prosecution was listened to. The Office of Special Prosecutions (OSP), set up to investigate acts of corruption, announced it was investigating activities of Akonta Mining with the potential to prosecute. Even before the OSP concluded its investigation, the president publicly announced that Akonta Mining was not engaging in galamsey “as we speak.”
Did the president clear his party financier of wrongdoing?
Opinions are divided on the matter, mainly along partisan lines. Lawyer for the opposition National Democratic Congress Edudzi Tameklo described the president as a clearing agent. The former president John Mahama also insisted the comment by the president was unacceptable. But the Lands Minister said the comments by the president do not absolve Akonta mining of any wrongdoing.
In an interview monitored by DUBAWA on Citi FM, a private radio station in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications and convenor of the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, Ing. Dr Kenneth Ashigbey, said the president’s comments were unfortunate.
According to him, there is no debate about Akonta Mining’s illegal mining activities, adding the weight of the president’s comment are likely to influence the investigation and possible prosecution by the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
With the plethora of allegations and pieces of evidence adduced in support of those allegations that Akonta Mining is involved in illegal mining, it remains to be seen if workers of the mining company affiliated with the president and the governing party will have their day in court in the spirit of rule of law.