About 500 illegal miners operating on the concession of the Ghana Rubber Estate Limited (GREL) say they are not ready to stop the illegal activities they are engaged in since there are no jobs in the communities.
According to them, the 25acres of land they are mining on at ‘Mba mpe hia’ was given to them by the chiefs at Apemanin Number One in the Ahanta West District for community mining.
Singing and chanting when a team made up of the media, the police as well as Operation Vanguard got to the scene and were asked to stop their activities they threatened not to vote for the government if they are not allowed to continue with their activities.
“We do not have any land to farm; all our land has been taken over by the rubber company and this is what we can do to feed our children,” Richmond Addae told B&FT when the media visited the site.
Also, he claimed that that area was used for galamsey in 2003 and they had to stop and explore other areas. “Now, we are back for good; this area cannot be used for rubber plantation, it will not grow.”
Stephen Kojo Oppong, who claims to be a sponsor of the illegal mining on the concession told the media that their operations on the concession started barely two weeks ago. “We had this land through the chiefs and with the support of the Municipal Chief Executive of the Ahanta West Municipality, the Fire Service the police among others also came to inspect the land for our operations.
“As you can see, we have barricaded this area demarcated for our community mining with bamboo sticks; look at the number of people here, they are about 500, they have dependants and this is what we all can do to support our families.
“This is what we can do for a living, the management of GREL should allow as to mine peacefully since we have stated that we will not cut down any rubber,” he added.
But Perry Acheampong, Corporate Affairs Manager of GREL, in an interview with the B&FT explained that the area encroached was replanted with rubber in 2010 and activities of the illegal miners could see the company lose more than €3.5million in income and derail government’s One District, One Factory (1D1F) initiative.
“This can impact us greatly on the new factory under the government’s 1DIF project. The idea was that this plantation would supply the factory with raw materials but if the activities of the illegal miners are allowed to continue, it means all the material for IDIF, efforts and money spent would not yield any fruitf,” he added.
“We are not aware of any permit given by any authority approving them to use it for galamsey activity as it is being speculated. We have reported this issue to the Municipal Assembly and they said the issue will be investigated and we are waiting for the result,” he pointed out.
GREL, according to him, operates in 90 communities and has invested millions of Euro into its operation in Ghana. The first phase of the company’s new factory commissioned under IDIF project cost €25million with the final phase expected to cost €62 million but without any rubber, that would be good investment gone down the drain.
“If we do not protect this investment now it means all that we are doing will be fruitless. We have petition authorities and we expect them to stop these illegal minsers as well as protect the asset of the company. Nobody has come to GREL to have a discussion on the use of portions of land for any activities,” he said.
Mr. Acheampong further stated that GREL will explore all avenues available. “If it means going to court to get the right thing done, we will do it,” he said.
As at the time of filling the story, the B&FT contacted Henrietta Eyeson, the Chief Executive of the Ahanta West Municipality, for her reaction, but her phone was off and was not in the office when the reporter visited.