Drama unfolded at a meeting of the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs at Wa on Saturday when the traditional rulers met with Azumah Resources Limited, a mining company, the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) on the operations of the mining company.
The President of the Regional House of Chiefs, Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton VI, opened the session by indicating that “this meeting will afford us the opportunity to take a second look at our activities as stakeholders and seek ways to improve on mining operations as we dialogue continuously going forward.”
He explained that the house was interested in bringing the various stakeholders in the mining sector, Azumah Resources and the small scale miners to discuss the laws governing mining and how each of them could undertake their ventures peacefully without encroaching on other people’s sites.
The Regional Director for the Minerals Commission, Mr Dickson Achindiba, was given the platform to make a presentation to the house on the operations of Azumah Resources per its licence, but the chiefs appeared infuriated after the presentation which they described as an “abstract” and said it did not answer their questions.
The drama heightened when Mr Achindiba was unable to give direct answers to questions bordering on the licence of the company, hence the Chief of Yari, a community in the Wa East District, retorted that “you have not answered the questions, your presentation did not help anyone, what we want to know is that with what licence is Azumah Resources operating, in which communities are they supposed to operate and are they mining or prospecting like they keep telling us?”
In the heat of the event, the Deputy Upper West Regional Minister, Mr Amidu Chinnia Issahaku, intervened and stated that it would be prudent to hear the presentation by the Azumah Resources in order to make an informed judgment.
Country Director for the company, Mr Paul Amoako-Atta, made a presentation that revealed that the company had been doing prospecting for gold since 2006 when they came into the region and had not began mining yet.
Mr Amoako-Attah said the company was allocated 3000 square kilometre of land at a cost of 120,000 dollars after obtaining their licence for prospecting and that was why it had taken them that long.
Mr Amoako-Attah confirmed that Phoenix, a mining company stationed at Wa East was a subsidiary of the Azumah Resources.
“Based on the request of the house in our last meeting, we have had engagement meetings with most of the communities we are operating in but have not been successful in Wa East because the people have prevented us from entering their communities several times, by blocking the roads and threatened to attack us,” he alleged.
A retired Major, Mr John Irkeche Zampore, who is the head of security at Azumah Resources jumped to the rescue of the country director when the chiefs demanded to know why the company had sent military men to some communities in the Wa East to “terrorise” indigenes.
Major (retd) Zampore explained that Azumah Resources had not sent any soldiers and that the men were deployed to the area as part of the government’s efforts to check illegal mining, adding that “I received a letter from the youth leader on the alleged terrorism on the community members, a meeting was scheduled to discuss the issue with people but the meeting never saw the light of day.”
He however promised to ensure that the allegations levelled against the soldiers were investigated and put under control.
The Deputy Regional Minister who thought the mining company was being “economical with the truth” encouraged the company to get the appropriate licence for their operations and said they were going to further discuss at their security meetings and chart the way forward.
Kuoro Kanton VI restored calm to the house and urged Azumah Resources to ensure that the dialogue with various communities and chiefs was done in order to harmonise their operations in those areas.
Earlier last week, a group of small scale miners together with chiefs of the Wala Traditional Council held a media briefing at Wa to register their displeasure about operations of Azumah Resources Limited at Wa East District to the detriment of their own small scale miners.
LYDIA DARLINGTON FORDJOUR, WA