Note: this story was first published by the Enquirer newspaper (Friday 14th November 2014)
By: Francis Npong, Gbane U/E
On August 10, 2009 the chief of Gbane, a farming community in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region of Ghana, Naba Porbortaaba Nabil thumb-printed a document without knowing it content.
Unknown to the chief he had just approved 747.41 acres of land to two small scale mining companies, Yenyeya and Porbortaba mining Groups and their Chinese partner, Shaanxi Mining Ghana without the consent of his community members or clan heads, the Enquirer investigations uncovered. It was a document allegedly prepared by the management of these scale mining companies.
The chief who has not been to school and could not read the content of the letter hurriedly thumb-printed the said letter which was under the heading “Release of Land for Surface Use at Designated Small Scale Mining Area in the Talensi-Nabdam District in the Upper East Region of Ghana”.
Fraudulent acquisition of Land
The said letter in possession of the Enquirer reads in part “This is to certify that the chief of Gbane Naba Porbortaaba Nabil, has on 10th August 2009 consented to the request made by Yenyeya and porbortaaba mining groups and Shaanxi mining Ghana limited to release land shewed edged pink and covering an area of seven hundred and forty seven point forty-one acres (747.41) as indicated on the attached site plan endorsed by me to be fenced out for the construction of a mine shaft, installation of plants, construction of a residential accommodation and safe keeping of equipment and their trucks…”.
The document also bears the thumb-print of one Baabii Daniel Tu, elder of Gbane as a witness, Awudu Pagra Nnabil, Charles Ndanbon and Liu Xiaoqing as CEOs of Porbortaba Mining Group, Yenyeya Mining Group and Shaanxi Mining Ghana.
According to the Enquirer sources within Gbane Chief’s Palace, the management of these companies took the advantage of the chief’s inability to read and write to illegally acquire large tract of land for mining activities. It is alleged that the chief was not properly briefed on the content of the letter or the acreages covered in the said land agreement before thumb-printing to legalize the agreement.
“The chief is aware that Charles owns only 25 acres concession at Gbane mining area as a small scale miner so his thump-printing to approve the use of land was only to cover the 25 acres not 747.41 acres”, our source said.
The fraudulent acquisition of the land without adequate compensation was made possible through the conspiracy work of three key individuals, who allegedly manipulated the uneducated Chief of Gbane and his son to sign the land agreement on behalf of the community.
Protests and cancellation of land agreement
When a Chinese mining company began the construction of head frames (vertical shaft) in the middle of the people’s houses, the heads of Yilzugdem and Tindaandem communities raised alarm and subsequently petitioned the Tongo Traditional Council over illegal acquisition occupation of the Chinese on their land.
These communities later established that Gbane chief had signed a document approving 747.41 acres of land to the miners for the purposes of construction of mine shafts.
The Tongo Traditional Council upon a complaint lodged by the heads of Yilzugdem and Tindaandem communities ruled null and void the said land agreement entered by the Gbane chief with the Chinese mining company.
The council subsequently directed that a letter should be written and signed by all the four sections of Gbane and Tongo-Rana to withdraw the said letter that approved the sale of 747.41 acres of land to Shaanxi Mining Ghana.
The ruling dated 12 July 2012 and signed by Tongo Rana and president of Traditional Council Sakosong Lebeg Gbiamer, and Baare Naab, Winkogo Naab, and Tengzuk Naab as council members was pronounced on 6th July 2012 and communicated to all interested parties it was learnt.
However, the Chinese mining company disregarded the ruling and constructed mine shafts which are situated in the middle of the community. This therefore exposed the entire community to danger.
The Enquirer can report that the mine shafts are located within the community and one very close to St Anthony’s primary school.“The most annoying of all this is that the company does not inform use when it will carry out blasting. They did it anytime which often disrupts teaching and learning”, a teacher told the paper.
The head teacher of St Anthony primary school Mr Francis Naleog said “Children are playing around in the midst of stone blasting. When they blast the debris fly through these shafts and could hit and wound the children”, he said.
He feared that if nothing is done tragedy may soon happen and appealed to the authorities to either remove the mine shaft or relocate the school and the community at large to avoid bad incidence.
In spite of the order by the Mineral Commission to remove mine shafts and desist from operating in an authorized place, the Chinese mining company with the support of their partners remains adamant.
.Accusations of bribery
The Assembly Member for Gaare-Gbane Electoral Area Mr. Bismark N.S Zumah accused Shaanxi Mining Ghana, Porbortaaba and Yenyeya Mining Groups for illegal land grabbing. He reiterated that the companies used illegal means to acquire 747.41 acres of land belonging various communities.
He said the company has circumvented the mining law that sets high standards for environmental protection and rightful compensation.
He alleged that the illegal and fraudulent acquisition of the land was made possible through the conspiracy work of three key individuals, who manipulated the Chief of Gbane and his son to sign the land agreement on behalf of the community and the Chinese Mining Firm.
“I have been imprisoned several times for leading community protests to reclaim our land that was illegally acquired by Shaanxi Mining Ghana and its Ghanaian partners. He also accused Shaanxi mining Ghana for not only defiling the directive of the mineral commission to remove mine shafts constructed near a school building but also staged managing compensation to 43 persons instead 552 affected community members.
As we speak today, Shaanxi Mining Ghana continue to occupy and operate on unauthorized land what is surprising the failure of the Mineral Commission to enforce their own directive”, he said.
The mineral commission after investigation of allegations labeled against Shaanxi and others order the company to remove head frame located 50 feet of a school indicating that the effect of blasting was apparent on the school building. The commission ordered Shaanxi to immediately stop operating within the unauthorized area. This directive, according to the Assembly Member has been blatantly ignored by the company. “We are helpless even the chiefs are being manipulated by Shaanxi Mining Ghana”, he alleged.
The Assembly Member accused Shaanxi of bribery and corruption saying “just when the communities launched protest against Shaanxi Mining Ghana, the company bought and distributed vehicles to chiefs, District Assembly and also donated computers to the Regional Coordinating Council and Ghana Police Service in Bolga”. Shaanxi Mining Ghana has been using police service to intimidating and harassing the communities.
Operating without valid mining license
The Enquirer investigation has established that Yenyeya Mining Group on whose concession the Shaanxi Mining Ghana is operating has no valid license. The license granted the small scale miner expired two years ago and has since not been renewed (details on this soon).
When the Enquirer confronted officials of the Mineral Commission over these allegations they refused to comment. Mr. Ernest Okyere, Upper East Regional Manager of the Mineral Commission said he does not have permission to speak to the issue.
Several attempts to contact the CEO of the Mineral Commission failed. However, the commission is yet to respond to a questionnaire sent to it at the time of filing this story.
Mr. Maxwell Awumah and Joseph Anokye, the PRO and Human Resource manager for Shaanxi Mining Ghana in a separate interview with the Enquirer accused the Assembly member for Gaare-Gbane Electoral Area for instigating the communities against the company. They debunked allegation of bribery, harassment and intimidation labeled against the company.
The PRO however confirmed to the paper that Yenyeya Mining Group, one of their clients has difficulties in renewing its license and that there were issues hindering the renewal. They explained that Shaanxi Mining Ghana does not own the concessions but providing mining support services to Yenyeya and Porbortaba mining Groups.
The PRO and HR manager would not also agreed to the assertion that, the vehicles and computers they donated to the chiefs, the Assembly, Regional Coordinating Council and Ghana Police Service were to win them to their side.
They said it was done as part of their corporate social responsibilities. The PRO also denied that the management lured the chief of Gbane to approving 747.41 acres of land and that the said agreement was done by unknown person with intention to attract investment.
Mr. Aboakye said the demand for the removal of head frame means the mining activities should stop and fhuge sums of money to construct the facility. He said they have paid compensation to 43 affected farmers instead of 527 believed to have been affected.
On how the affected persons were identified the HR said the company worked with landowners to identify the beneficiaries. This, the Assembly Member said was stage managed because the company does not want to spent huge money on compensation.
On relocation of two schools, Bonsa International and St Anthony, the manager said they are unable to relocate Bonsa International School because it is a private business. He said necessary arrangement has been made to relocate St Anthony primary which is a public school.
The District Chief Executive for Talensi Awunnore Edward also denied that the Assembly has compromised and that a District Taskforce has been constituted to help deal with the issues in the mining area. On the relocation of schools, the DCE said he was unaware that talks between the management of Bonsa International School and Shaanxi mining Ghana has stalled and promised to look into the matter. Stayed tune.