A near-midnight attack launched on a police squad in Talensi, a district in the Upper East region, by an angry mob suspected to be made up of small-scale miners has resulted in two wounded police officers hospitalised and a wild manhunt for the culprits.
The Upper East Regional Chairman of the Ghana National Small-Scale Miners Association, Robert Tampoare, says he believes the “disturbing development” is rooted in the continuous operations of the Chinese-owned Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd in the area despite a nationwide ban on small-scale mining in Ghana.
One of the policemen, according to authorities at the Upper East Regional Hospital, was struck in the neck with a piece of wood by the dissenters and the other person fainted at the scene of attack.
“They brought them early. The Regional Crime Officer brought them to my consulting room. One sustained injuries and the other one said he fainted when he saw the way they (the demonstrators) were maltreating his colleague police officer,” Dr Samson Sarpak told Starr News.
It all started on Monday night with underground arrests of ten miners alleged to have trespassed into one of the mining pits where the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd and two local hosts— Yenyeya and Pubootaaba mining groups— mutually operate.
As a police force was taking the suspects on a vehicle to the regional capital, Bolgatanga, for interrogation, a gang suspected to have been mobilised at Gbane, the community where the arrests had taken place, went ahead of the police vehicle and mounted a roadblock at Yameriga, one of the villages between Gbane and Tongo (Talensi’s capital) and fought hard against the police to free the suspected intruders.
“They besieged and blocked the road in an attempt to rescue the arrested illegal miners. In the course of that, two policemen got down at the barrier erected by those who wanted to rescue the illegal miners. Because of their number, when the two officers got down, the vehicle sped off with the arrested men, leaving the two policemen behind.
“The community vented their spleen on them. They (the police officers) had to run and took refuge in another village where they called for reinforcement to rescue them. The injured had to be taken to hospital for treatment,” said the Upper East Regional Police Commander, DCOP Osei Ampofo-Duku, in a telephone interview with Starr News Tuesday evening.
More Trouble Likely Ahead— Small-Scale Miners Chairman
This is not the first time some members of the community have risen against the Chinese company in that mineral-rich territory of the Savannah.
About seven years ago, angry natives blamed the Chinese for the degraded look of the community. And so deep was the anger that even when the company constructed a bridge around that period, saying it was part of its “corporate social responsibility” to the community, the agitated inhabitants rubbished the offer, describing it as “corporate social robbery” and threatened to mar the much-hyped commissioning ceremony with chaos.
They caused mayhem at the ceremony, setting ablaze mining machines worth millions of dollars and firing heavy arms the blasting sounds of which put revered guests to involuntary flight on feet through the surrounding shea-dominated forests. The Upper East Regional Chairman of the Ghana National Small-Scale Miners Association (mentioned earlier) said a “problem” could arise as the Chinese firm continued to flout the mine ban and advised stakeholders to act now.
“What surprises me most is that the Government of Ghana has put a ban on small-scale mining since April, 2017, but the Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd, which is supporting Yenyeya Mining Group and Pubootaaba Mining Group, is still working. When reports are lodged with the authorities, no one cares about it. Why are they allowing them to be working and indigenous Ghanaians are prevented from working?
“In the whole Ghana, no one is working. What exempts them? Authorities must put a stop to the activities of the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Ltd, get to the ground and solve the problem or else one day we would all be in problem considering the way and manner the youth are now agitating against the security,” said the Chairman.
He added: “In 2014, four mining groups— Unique, Obuasi, Timataaba and Gbandanyire— lodged complaints with the Minerals Commission that Shaanxi had trespassed on their concessions. Reports submitted in 2015 by the commission after an underground survey was conducted by the commission showed that Shaanxi actually trespassed on those concessions. So, we expected that the commission would ask Shaanxi to compensate the four mining groups. The commission did not do so and has not done so up to now.”
We have Small-Scale Mining Licences and We are Working— Shaanxi PRO Confirms
Shaanxi’s Public Relations Officer, Maxwell Wooma, told Starr News Tuesday night Shaanxi and its local partners were operating with small-scale mining licences, and he did not deny the three mining associates were still operating in the area— in spite of the ban on small-scale mining.
“The two small-scale mining groups hold small-scale mining licences,” he said. “Their licences are small-scale mining licences,” he repeated. “There is no ban on Yenyeya and Pubootaaba mining groups. And the point is that our model is different. Yenyeya and Pubootaaba have been so properly grouped to be offered mine support service by a transnational body,” and stressed.
And when asked why work was still going on in the face of the ban, he replied: “You have to ask the sector ministry. You have the regulatory institutions; you can ask them. Talk to Minerals Commission and tell them to ban them.”
“Ghana laws are now catching only Ghanaians and leaving the Chinese to go scot-free. There is a ban on small-scale mining, but Shaanxi is still operating with two mining groups with small-scale mining licences and the police are stationed at the mining site assisting them to work. Is this not illegality? Is this Ghana?
“Why are they not stopping them and arresting them for disobeying the law? They should arrest the whole of Gbane— not only the ten people we are told went into the Chinese pits. The police should also arrest themselves for assisting the Chinese to mine when there is a national ban on small-scale mining,” remarked a very angry resident.
Reacting to that comment on Wednesday (today), the Regional Police Commander said: “We don’t care. We are putting them (the arrested suspects) before court. If we put them before court and the court says the Shaanxi operation is illegal and, for that matter, they are free to go, then, they go away.”