A public outcry over an alleged environmental devastation, expressed in a tone more emotional than any heard in recent times in the Upper East Region, has taken over the Talensi District after some Chinese expatriates allegedly polluted the water consumed by inhabitants of the area through “illegal” mining activities.
Speaking to newsmen at a news conference held Tuesday at Sheaga, east of Talensi, natives visibly angered by the reported pollution and calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Talensi strongly demanded that the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, the company the Chinese miners work for, be evacuated from the district immediately.
“The company has since 2010 been mining in the area but claimed to be providing mining support services to two small-scale mining groups- Pubortaaba Mining Group and Yenyeya Mining Group. The company has since hidden and ridden [on] the back of these small mining groups to carry out mining operations equivalent to large-scale mining and this leads to unhealthy issues.
“It is worrying to observe that there are houses and schools very close to the mining site. The blasting destroyed all good drinking water including the very single borehole they constructed. They destroyed the 1-unit 3-classroom block built by the district assembly and have since done nothing better to improve the situation. The 3-classroom [block] they have built is woefully unacceptable,” claimed a statement read by the convener of the conference, Charles Boazor.
Chinese pay Ghanaian employees below Gh¢250
The group further alleged that hundreds of Ghanaians engaged by the Chinese company were being maltreated in a variety of forms.
According to the concerned natives, some workers have suffered unwarranted dismissals whilst none of the mineworkers has personal protective equipment.
“Out of the 502 Ghanaian employees, about 450 employees are paid salaries and wages below Gh¢250 per month for working 8 hours per day. Due to poor safety measures, many are dead by accidents, while others injured uncompensated and made to foot their own medical bills. The company also has not paid any SSNIT (Social Security and National Insurance Trust) contribution of employees since 2012. However, the over 150 Chinese counterparts in the company are paid in foreign currency,” the group stated.
Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited was also cited for tax evasion- a secret the group said became known through its checks at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). It also blamed the Chinese mining firm for denying the compensation due land owners as well as the social amenities and the resettlement package owed the community (Gbani) where it is located in the district.
Group laments deaths of Ghanaian mineworkers
The conference stirred up memories of Ghanaian miners said to have died or got injured in separate mining accidents the group said only the Chinese working for that company could be blamed for.
“Since 2013, many young men including Cephas Bazimwomit, Nambok Yaw, Tahiru Yussifu and Boazor among others perished through deliberate blast poisoning. These wicked mining practices were meant for deterrence of Bantama Group, Gold Coast Group and Manyeka Group from competing for the same rocks containing the gold ore. The toxic substance from blasting, when inhaled, deteriorates the respiratory system, resulting in severe coughing and vomiting of blood hence victims dying within two days.
“Apart from the wickedness, Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited practises bad mining against the standard regulation. They blast unannounced…destroying life and property. Surely, some staff such as Nyaaba Dok, Samuel Woridan, Boasabilik Dunua and Onzaah Baba among others have lost their lives and many injured due to improper safety measures,” the group recalled.
The aggrieved natives also argued that the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited had no grounds to render any support to the Yenyeya Mining Group. This, according to the group, is because the local firm has not been licensed to mine and it is involved in a court dispute with three mining groups (Bantama, Gold Coast and Banyeka) who reportedly claim to be co-owners of the 25-acre concession Yenyeya says is its sole property.
We are legally recognised- Shaanxi reacts
Meanwhile, the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited has dismissed the allegations directed at its operations in the district, saying it is a legally established technical service provider for its local partners.
“Yenyeya Mining Group is a licensed mining group. Its licence is renewed until 2019 that it would be due for renewal again. Same as Pubortaaba. Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited has 2017 year mining licence renewed, valid and working. There is none of these entities that form this conglomerate of businesses working together in Gbani that operates illegally. We want to let these people understand that the huge investment that has been put in Gbani is a trailblazer of proper underground mining in the whole of the northern sector of Ghana,” the company’s Public Relations Officer, Maxwell Wooma, told Starr News.
He said there was more than enough evidence to show that the company, contrary to the claims made by the Concerned Citizens of Talensi, had never evaded tax and had honoured its SSNIT contributions for its staff up to date.
“Shaanxi does not own either of the concessions. We only provide the services that Ghanaians cannot offer or provide for themselves. If they need a mining engineer, we would give them. If they need a processing plant, we would give them. This is what we do. We are prepared to show to the whole country very soon every document on taxes, royalties, SSNIT contributions. We have all these things,” Mr. Wooma affirmed.