ANGRY CHIEFS from 17 communities within the Asante Akim Central District of the Ashanti Region have threatened to lead their people on a massive demonstration against Owere Mines Ltd, latest by next week, over unpaid royalties due them.
Nana Kwaku Boapiah, Gyasehene of Agyareago and spokesperson for the chiefs, said since 2010 when Owere Mines started operations, the mining company has not paid the chiefs any royalties for them to carry out developmental projects for their people to benefit.
He said all efforts, including dialogue, to make Owere Mines Ltd do the right thing by paying the royalties failed to yield the desired results; hence the chiefs’ decision to hit the streets in protest.
Speaking at a mammoth press conference at Patriensa, which was graced by hundreds of the youth in the area, Nana Boapiah said Owere Mines Ltd seemed not ready to embrace peace, threatening, ‘and we shall kick them out from our lands with series of demonstrations.’
But in a sharp rebuttal, Kofi Nti, Mines Manager of Owere Mines Ltd, stated categorically that there was no iota of truth in what he described as wild accusations being peddled against his company by the traditional leaders of the area.
He claimed that his company duly paid royalties in the sum of about GH¢1.77 million to the IRS, who in turn forwarded it to the government, within 2011 and 2012 when Owere Mines operated, adding that it was up to the chiefs to take the necessary steps to access the money.
Owere Mines Ltd, Mr Nti said, stopped mining operations since 2012 and that it was only carrying out tests on its concessions. He noted that barring any unforeseen hitches, the company would commence mining in two years time and resume paying the royalties again.
The 17 communities include Nyaboo, Patriensa, Bimma, Kyekyebiase, Krofa, Juansa, Nyanponase, Domeabra, Pekyerekye, Kawkawkaw, Obenemase, Atunsu, Kyekyewere, Agyareago, Odumase, Bomireso and Konongo.
The press conference was organised by Concerned Citizens of Asante Akim Central, a group whose objective is to transform the area. Significantly, all the attendants of the press conference, notably the chiefs, wore black clothes to display their anger.
Nana Boapiah also accused the mining company of not playing any roles to develop the area as part of its corporate social responsibilities, adding that the youth of the area were also not being offered employment by Owere Mines Ltd.
Appeal to Government
On his part, Nana Opuni Ababio Opamago, the Chief of Kawkawkaw, charged government to terminate any contract it has with Owere Mines Ltd and replace it with a mining company which would have the passion to contribute to the development of the area.
Asare Bediako, Secretary, Concerned Citizens of Asante Akim Central, gave Owere Mines Ltd an ultimatum to leave their land in peace by the end of 2015, threatening that else they would face the wrath of the local people, including the chiefs and the unemployed youth.
He accused the company of harassing poor farmers, failing to fence mining pits, destroying the environment by polluting the Apoposu river at Nyaboe, non-payment of ground compensation and refusing to demarcate their concession among others.
Bediako said the people in the area initially had hopes that the mining company would help expedite their developmental aspirations, but noted that it had rather deepened their poverty level. He also called on government and the authorities concerned to support the local people to kick Owere Mines Ltd out of the area.
Meanwhile, in an interview with DAILY GUIDE, Kofi Nti said all the allegations levelled against his company were baseless, noting that his company had supported education through sponsorships, constructed roads and also supported the communities in diverse ways to grow.
He explained that Owere Mines Ltd inherited about six pits on the concession when it moved to the area, stating that the company operates under the strict guidance of the EPA and that they have not erred in any way to warrant condemnation.
The Mines Manager assured that the company would employ most of the youth in the 17 communities when it concludes its tests and starts operating again and appealed to the Minerals Commission to intervene by educating the people to know the good works of Owere Mines Ltd.
FROM I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., Kumasi
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