HUNDREDS of residents at Banso Old Town in Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality of the Western Region who are currently rendered homeless after what they described as the “unlawful, wicked and illegal demolition exercise” being carried out by the Chinese own Ghana Manganese Company (GMC) have called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to immediately intervene in the matter to help safe their lives before any unforeseen disaster befall them.
According to the visibly worried residents, their lives are currently in serious danger because they are sleeping in the open places since the company unlawfully instructed its contractors with the protection of the armed police officers to bulldoze their buildings structures and farmlands on Friday, July 10, 2020, without even resettling and paying compensation packages due them.
Interestingly,according to newly appointed Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly, who doubles as the Chairman of the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Resettlement Mining Negotiative Committee (RMC), Mr Benjamin Kessie the demolition exercise was carried out by the company at the Tarkwa-Banso old town without his knowledge.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with this reporter on Thursday, July 16, 2020, at his office in Tarkwa, Mr Kessie noted that he was not aware or being informed that the company has demolished the houses of the residents at Tarkwa-Banso old town and sympathized with the affected residents.
The current MCE who assumed office a couple of weeks ago has promised to make contact to the GMC to find out their reason for carrying out the exercise.
The MCE further gave his assurance to visit or send a team of the workers at the Assembly to the scene to verify the authenticity of the damage caused to the building structures of the residents by the company at the Tarkwa-Banso old town.
According to him, the impasse between the residents and company has been a very long standing issue which he realized that came before the Assembly’s Resettlement Negotiative Mining Committee (RMC) at the time that he was the Presiding Member (PM) of Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly for which the issue has been settled by RMC sometimes ago after the company has agreed to resettle and compensate the residents.
Mr Kessie admitted that when he assumed office a couple of weeks ago as the substantive MCE, the affected residents led by Mr Prah brought the issue to his attention again and informed him that the company has refused to implement the terms and conditions in negotiation agreement of resettlement and compensation and the residents pleaded with him (the MCE) to table the issue for the discussion in order to find amicable solution to resolve the matter.
He stated that he advised them to go and bring all the necessary documents in connection with the negotiations of the resettlement compensation packages agreement between the residents and company for which they obliged.
According to Mr Kessie, after they brought their petitions he told them to give him sometimes to sort assistance from his technical team to go through their petitions before he could table the issue for discussion to have it resolved.
“But l want to state that l am not aware of the current demolition of the houses and structures of the residents in the area by the company,” the MCE explained.
Mincing no words, the MCE denied allegations levelled against him by the residents to the effect that he refused several occasions to pick their telephone calls after they had filed their petitions in the connection of the resettlement compensation packages impasse between them and the company.
“It is not deliberate for me to refuse to pick the calls from the residents of Tarkwa-Banso old town. l operate open door policy sometimes l have been in meetings with some people before the calls came but any time Mr Prah came to me in my office l attend to him and even l called him my uncle so it is not deliberate not to pick their calls,” Mr Kessie explained.
However at the crunch meeting with the affected residents at Tarkwa-Banso old town on Wednesday, July 16, 2020, they bemoaned that the demolition of their houses and farmlands has adversely affected their livelihoods and blamed the entire predicaments on the local, district and regional leaderships failure.
The residents numbering about two hundred (200) have dully recounted the number of efforts they made to get the leaderships of the state mining regulatory institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources including the Western Regional Minister and the Municipal Chief Executive ( MCE ) of Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly to table this pressing issue to discuss the proper arrangements on how the company to come out with negotiation compensation and resettlement packages for the community since they were entitled to compensation and resettlement but all these were unsuccessful.
“We had made several efforts to seek assistance from the local authorities including sending several petitions to the Municipal Chief Executive of the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipal Assembly and copying the Western Regional Minister and Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) and National Commission for Civil Education (NCCE ) against the harmful effects of the GMC mining manganese operations and the resettlement processes,” the residents stated.
Speaking on behalf of the affected residents, Mr Albert Kingsley Prah
stated that the manganese mining company having realised that they (residents) had served it with their writ of summons to appear before the High Court of Justice in Tarkwa for its persistence delay to pay their compensation and resettlement hurriedly ordered its contractors on Friday, July 10, 2020, to demolish their houses making them completely homeless. They
According to him, as inhabitants, they are entitled to compensation and resettlement from the company as a condition precedent to the lawful commencement of operations on the mining concession by the company. He added that the Tarkwa Municipal Assembly had called the parties in an earlier meeting to address the issue.
The residents bemoaned that whilst waiting for the Assembly to reconvene the parties for the subsequent meeting after receiving both parties issues and responses, the GMC on Tuesday 7th July posted notices on houses of the residents notifying them of a demolition exercise to be carried out on 13th July 2020.
Mr Prah averred that they are the owners and lawful occupiers of houses, farmlands and other structures at Tarkwa-Banso old town where they have been carrying on their farming activities at all material times before the arrival of the GMC.
He revealed that sometime around November 2012, management of Ghana Manganese Company in a town hall meeting with the inhabitants of Oldtown community at Tarkwa Banso community center, expressed its desire, to mine for manganese deposit at a hill adjacent to the community.
And to this end, he said the company suggested a verbal compensation and resettlement of residents whose properties and farmlands were located within the 500-meter radius, which represents the legal requirement for resettlement of affected people by mining operations.
According to Mr Prah, at the said meeting, the GMC before the entire community made a declaration that the resettlement will be that every building completed or uncompleted would be built if the community agreed to the resettlement proposal.
He further averred that the GMC and /or its agents subsequent to the community meeting came to the community to undertake an enumeration of the structures and buildings in Tarkwa Banso Oldtown for the purposes of the negotiating compensation and resettlement of the community.
According to him, at the said enumeration the company captured some of the buildings and structures belonging to them but failed and refused to enumerate some properties of them though same was shown to the company.
He claimed that although a series of meetings were held by GMC with the residents of the community from 2012 until 2017 to try and resolve the issues, the parties could not come to a consensus as to the details of the compensation and resettlement of all affected residents.
He said that subsequent to this meeting and contrary to its promise, the Ghana Manganese Company has started actual mining and mining activities on the said hill without making adequate and prompt payment of compensation and resettlement to the residents before commencing its activities.
He averred that as a result of the blatant disregard to requirements of the law, the residents are at the receiving end of all the negative impacts associated with the company’s mining operations resulting in the development of cracks of buildings, frightening noises and tremors from vibrations resulting from regular and unannounced blasting, noise and dust pollutions and threats of forceful evictions from the management of the company.
He maintained that the company has refused to negotiate the terms of resettlement and compensation in good faith with them as required by the Minerals and Mining (Compensation and Resettlement) Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2175) law.