Uneasy tension in Gwira

Omanhene of the Gwira Traditional Area, Awulae Agama Tuagyan II, during the recent press conference

… as Omanhene demands withdrawal of Okobeng Mines’ mining licences

There is growing tension among residents in the Gwira Traditional Area at the Nzema East Municipality of the Western Region, as one faction of the traditional authority continues to push for Okobeng Mining – a local small-scale mining company – to be stopped from operating in the area.

The Omanhene of Gwira Traditional Area, Awulae Agama Tuagyan II, alleges that the mining company over the past six years has been engaging in illegal small-scale mining (galamsey) in the area.

The situation has led to destruction of cocoa farms and pollution of the Ankobra River, which was the main source of drinking water for the areas’ people.

In addition, poisonous chemicals such as mercury and cyanide used by the mining company to extract gold have caused people to suffer from skin diseases and irreparable damage to their bodies.

Furthermore, he accused the company of refusing to pay any compensation to farmers whose cocoa farms were destroyed, among others, during a recent press conference in Accra.

But following this, a counter-statement was issued by the Head of the Amankrapanyin family, Nana Alu Menza III, which urged the public to disregard the initial claims by Awulae Agama Tuagyan II because he has no authority and is not the recognised Paramount Chief of Gwira.

According to Nana Alu Menza III, Awulae Agama Tuagyan II’s claim is currently being challenged at the Sekondi High Court, and therefore is yet to be issued a gazette certifying his claim to the Gwira stool.

This implies that the ‘embattled’ chief has no chieftaincy and traditional authority to ban Okobeng Mining Company, which has been legally mining in the area for almost 25 years without violating the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(ACT 703).

As a result, it was indicated that Okobeng Mining Company Limited can continue mining on its concession at Dominase.

However, a statement issued by the acting registrar of Gwira Traditional Council, Theophilus Chuasam, has also urged the public to disregard the statement by Alu Menza III that refuted the ban on the small-scale mine.

It said: “Awulae Angama Tu-Agyan II is the substantive Omanhene and President of the Gwira Traditional Council, a member of the Western Regional House of Chiefs for over 23 years, and a member of the National House of chiefs”.

To this end, it observed that the recent press conference by Awuale Angama Tu-Agyan II and Nananom of the Gwira Traditional Council banning Okobeng Mining from mining in the Gwira Traditional Area still holds and has not been rescinded.

“As a result, anybody who deals with Okobeng Mining Company in the Gwira Traditional Area does so at his or her own risk,” it added.

It will be recalled that the chiefs and people of Gwira Traditional Area in the Nzema East Municipality of the Western Region called on the Minerals Commission, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and others to withdraw any licence(s) granted to the Okobeng Mining Company Limited with immediate effect.

This follows allegations that the mining company, over the past six years, had been engaging in illegal small-scale mining (galamsey) in the area, which had destroyed cocoa farms and polluted the Ankobra River – the main source of drinking water for the local people.

Sources close to the local mining company have denied these claims, and revealed several copies of legal documents to back up their operations.

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