The National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) – Ghana has asked government to, as a matter of urgency hearken to their lamentations and clear the hurdles that are hampering their work. This, according to them will give them the signal that government really cares and is well aware of their importance to the socio economic growth of the economy.
To the coalition, a positive step towards removing the numerous bottlenecks in the industry will give their members the courage to strive to achieve more and to further appreciate that government is indeed in the same boat with them and the rest of the world that industry is the bedrock and the driving force for a prosperous future.
At the 8th National Mining Forum held at the Presbyterian Church Hall, Sege in the Dangme East District of the Greater Accra Region yesterday. Under the theme: “Artisanal and Small Scale Salt Mining: Issues and Challenges”, it brought together members of the coalition, individual activists and communities affected by mining – with relatively little voice- a platform to press home the needed changes in the mining sector to better contribute to a sustainable and inclusive development.
It was also to place the numerous issues and challenges facing artisanal and small scale salt mining in areas such as Ada – Songor and Keta Lagoons, the Densu Delta Area and the Nyanya Lagoon among others under the national spotlight as representatives from these areas took turns to share their challenges and experiences in their quest to work and fend for their families.
Naana Korleki Korle I, of the Takperbiawe Clan who chaired the colourful event, urged the youth to “rise and protect our livelihood”. She pleaded with the District Assembly to step in and help boost salt production in the area which according to her is dwindling. Naana Korleki Korle I also appealed to the hearts and conscience of all who are filled with greed and are siphoning water from the Songor lagoon into large dykes, a process referred to as ‘ATSIAKPO’ to cease. The habit, she said is destroying fish production in the lagoon and is also preventing natural salt salination. She said the ancestors will not forgive the current generation if such practices do not cease.
An Advocacy Group, Okor Songor Women’s Association in their speech delivered by Rev. Sophia Ogerkuor Kitcher, tasked the government to pay particular attention to small scale salt miners and support them with credit facilities at low rates as the sector is responsible for producing 80% of the national salt output.
The group is unhappy government bureaucracy and manipulation by some persons is preventing the clearing of the sand barrier to allow sea water into the lagoon basin but is only interested in taking over the Songor area and giving it out to foreign investors.
She also flayed the District Assembly for not doing enough to help the women groups and touched on the bad state of the roads leading to the Songor Salt mining sites where thousands of cedis is generated daily.
In response, District Chief Executive for Ada West, Hon. Anthony Klokpa said the Assembly is doing its bit, knowing well the importance of salt to the local economy and will not renege on ensuring that all other issues confronting salt production in the district are addressed. He said some years ago, the Assembly was self reliant and central government begs them to come for their common fund and thus, appealed to the Chiefs to be united and work toward the collective good of all and to return to the good old days.
The activities of a foreign investor which led to the brutal clashes between the Security forces and locals last Wednesday saw the delegation from the Volta Region who looked mournful issued out a stern warning to the authorities to quickly call the Kensington Industries Ltd to order.
In a thought provoking speech delivered with emotions in every word, leader of the Ketu -Keta Lagoon Area Concerned Citizens and Salt Winners’ Association (KKLACCSWA), Mr. John Worclachie, said they are appalled by attempts by a foreigner to drive locals off what has been their source of livelihood for centuries. To them, it is even more worrying when foreigners can cause the security to brutalize and terrorize locals over what is their rightful source of income.
The use of security men who were trained and are being paid by the Ghanaian tax payer’s money against Ghanaians is very sad.
“Indeed the infamous Scramble for Africa and its offshoot, the Bond of 1844 under Commander Hill, which had subjugated the Gold Coast to Britain and was abrogated only in 1957, after one hundred and thirteen years of foreign domination, has resurfaced in a subtle form in Ketu South and Keta,” Mr. Worclachie said.
He was quick to add that, much as they were not against the Indian company, their plea is for the respect of boundaries with no incursions by Kensington Industries Limited and called on the Keta and Ketu South local governments to ensure that the company stops draining the lagoon water into their saltpans and resort to sea brine they announced they would be using.
Can a Ghanaian industrialist behave like this in India and still remain there to work? He asked.
Torgbui Dogbey Tu-Akli, chief of Dogbeykope , a suburb of Agbozume who spoke to Jubilee News after the forum shared similar sentiments and has backed the youth of the area to resist the foreign intrusion. He also charges the traditional rulers of Some and Anlo to sit up and ensure their subjects are not rendered jobless.
Meanwhile, Head of Mining at the Environmental Protection Agency, Micheal Sandow Ali, whose outfit was accused by the delegation from Ketu South and Keta of sitting on the fence and allowing Kensington Industries to degrade the environment said the Agency sees the importance of Artisanal salt mining and is always on the lookout for activities that endanger the environment, notably, erosion. . He tasked the locals to report any activities as the Agency is ever ready to assist when called upon.
Mr. Yaw Graham of Third World Network also asked government to use the small scale salt miners as the foundation of the National Development Agenda and as such, formulate policies that will allow the locals to mine the salt and sell to the foreign companies rather than allowing the foreigners who have the financial muscle to push the indigenes out of work.
For his part, Nii Adjetey-Kofi Mensah, Executive Director of the Natural Resource & Environmental Governance Advocacy said care must be taken and a lot of factors considered before concessions are allocated to foreign investors in the extractive industry. He called for more education to stop Child Labour, the increasing trend in the rural areas.
He was particularly unhappy there was no representative from the Minerals Commission.
Earlier, the media toured the vast Songor Salt mining area to see for themselves the challenges that the small scale miners have to grapple with on daily basis. Mr. Albert Apetorgbor, an advocate and member of the Ada Songor Salt Miners Cooperative Society who led the tour said the land area of the Western Songor Lagoon is about 30,000 hectres and can produce more salt than it currently produces if the numerous litigations and the other issues are cleared.
He also spoke on the posturing of government officials who are only interested in giving out the area to foreigners who only look out for gains and use the indigenes for cheap labour, a move he said pointing to a statue erected in memory of a pregnant woman, Margaret Kuwornu who died at Bornikope in the Songor salt winning enclave in a battle for supremacy between the locals and a foreign company in which she was killed by the police with others sustaining injuries 1985.
The events on that sad day he said, still lives with the people of the people who vowed never to succumb to any attempts to bring in foreigners but will only listen to offers that can make them maximize what nature has given them.
Ghana is the leading producer of salt in West Africa, with current production figures at approximately 250,000 metric tonnes. Future forecast predicts a significant rise to approximately 2 million tonnes annually with the West African sub region a viable market for the mineral.
These projections, according to the advocacy groups can easily be achieved if Ghana pays critical attention to Small Scale Salt mining.