Deputy Ranking Member on the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament has said that mining company, Akonta Mining Limited breached the law when they move their activities into the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve in the Amenfi West Municipality in the Western Region.
According to John Jinapor, the fact that the company, which is owned by NPP’s Ashanti Regional chairman, Chairman Wontumi, has a prospecting license does not give it the right to move into forest reserves.
Speaking on Newsfile, he explained that mining firms need other permits including environmental permits aside from their prospecting licenses; adding that forest reserves have been excluded from mining activities.
“So clearly there is some blatant disregard for the law by some people who feel untouchable. Let’s face it, but for the fact that Chairman Wontumi was the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NPP, could he have moved into the forest and start degrading it the way he was doing?” he quizzed.
Mr Jinapor added that “what Akonta mining was doing there (Tano Miniri Forest Reserve) is illegal so his firm has breached the law. This Akonta Mining has been there for a long time, it is not yesterday. I have seen videos…the chiefs have been complaining but the man feels that he is big, he is above the law, he has some political wit and so he can do what he wants.”
His comment follows a directive from the Lands Ministry to Akonta Mining Limited to stop operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest.
In a statement issued on September 30, the Ministry said even though Akonta Mining Limited has a mining lease to undertake mining operations in some parts of Samreboi, outside the Forest Reserve, “the company has no mineral right to undertake any mining operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve”.
The statement said the sector minister, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has therefore directed the Forestry Ministry to, “forthwith, ensure that the company does not carry out any operation in the Forest and to take the necessary action against any person found culpable in this matter”.
The directive came after two persons sustained gunshot wounds at the Akonta Mining firm in Samreboi in the Western Region.
This happened after a section of the youth reportedly prevented personnel of Akonta Mining Limited from sending more mining equipment into the Tano Nimri Forest reserve on Thursday.
The company is said to have been mining in the reserve despite a declaration by the government that it has not granted any entry permit into the forest reserve.
Meanwhile, Mr Jinapor stated that the President and government must show their commitment to dealing with galamsey by prosecuting “their own people”.
“If they go arresting the small fishes while their men are blatantly disregarding the law and moving into forest reserves and degrading the forest, they’re sending the wrong signal. There is evidence that what this company has done is illegal, they moved into the forest, degraded it, without authority,” he said.
He added that “I expect that this government and their ministers will take this on and use this as a test case, and prosecute them, so that we would know the government is indeed committed to fighting illegal mining.”