President Nana Akufo-Addo may be right when he said Akonta Mining Company Limited, owned by his party’s Ashanti Regional Chairman, Mr Bernard Antwi-Boasiako (Chairman Wontumi), is not engaged in illegal mining “as we speak” but there are pieces of evidence to prove the company was engaged in illegal mining in the past few months ago, the convener of the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, Dr Kenneth Ashigbey, has said.
Speaking on the matter for the first time at the 28th National and 16th Biennial Congress of the National Union of Ghana Catholic Diocesan Priests Association held in Koforidua, after the chairman of the occasion, Dr Ashigbey, raised the issue, the president responded thus: “Let me respond briefly to the chairperson on the issue of illegal mining: I want to assure him and all of you that Akonta Mining is not engaged in any illegal mining anywhere in Ghana as we speak”.
“Further”, the president added, the ministry of lands and natural resources has, through the agency of the forestry commission, with the assistance of the military, made the effort to cordon off all 294 sites of forest reserves in the country and rid them of illegal mining as we speak.”
Subsequently, Dr Ashigbey insisted: “Some media works had been done and some reportage in the media revealed the clashes between workers of Akonta Mining and residents of the Samreboi community where the residents prevented the miners from mining in the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve”.
“Also, the Minerals Commission, which is the independent regulatory body responsible for issuing licences, said that Akonta Mining is engaged in illegal activities and, so, it is worrying the president is saying Akonta Mining is not engaged in illegal mining as we speak”, Dr Ashigbey, who is also the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications told Citi FM.
He noted, however, “The president may be right when he says Akonta Mining is not engaged in illegal mining activities as we speak; it may be because maybe Akonta Mining has left the forest reserve, but the question we must be asking is: was the firm not in the forest sometime last year?”
Dr Ashigbey also said: “I will also give the president the benefit of the doubt that he, being the Commander-in-Chief, may have some evidence that we don’t know about” but stressed, “… we also have evidence to the contrary that the firm was in the forest reserve mining illegally sometime last year.”
In another interview on Joy FM, Dr Ashigbey observed: “It is instructive to hear the president defend that Akonta Mining Limited is not involved in any illegality as we speak.”
“If you look at the petition that we sent to the IGP and Attorney General and we copied to the President and for which we sent a reminder, we were talking about the incident that Erastus has reported and also the press release issued by the Lands Minister in September and the statement issued by the Minerals Commission in collaboration with the Minister… so, we were referring to illegality that had happened in 2022,” he added.
“I would want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, but say to the OSP and the IGP that that [an] investigation needs to happen of what happened in 2022 for which the Minerals Commission issued a release in support of what the Lands Minister had said, for which the people of Samraboi fought,” he insisted.