In­side Ghana’s gold in­dus­try

Sunday Trust - - SUNDAY MAGAZINE -

From Kate Da Costa in Ku­masi, Ghana

The bus moved along the steep, curvy and nar­row road trig­ger­ing adren­a­line filled mo­ments, as the driver ne­go­ti­ated each suc­ces­sive bend. Driv­ing on the twisted thin as­phalt cov­ered road, at a break neck speed was ab­so­lutely reck­less.

Both sides of the road were cov­ered with lush veg­e­ta­tion, in­clud­ing co­coa trees, plan­tain shrubs, cas­sava and palm trees, un­der­scor­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of the area as a na­tional food hub. This is Aman­sie West District in Ashanti Re­gion, a dom­i­nant player in Ghana’s flour­ish­ing gold in­dus­try.

As the bus moved deeper into the hin­ter­land, the ex­treme ne­glect of the district be­came in­creas­ingly glar­ing. Some of the set­tle­ments along the way looked de­plorable. Most of the houses were no­tice­ably de­crepit and un­fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion.

The bus raced on, then at a place called An­wian kwanta, the as­phalt dis­ap­peared leav­ing be­hind a dusty stretch of road. A strong wave of sand hit the bus. Rapidly, ev­ery­where was filled with dust, prompt­ing some of the oc­cu­pants to reach out for their scarfs and wrap­pers. But they were cer­tainly in­ad­e­quate buf­fers for the rag­ing dust. The face and hair of the bus con­duc­tor, who was stand­ing by the door sud­denly turned brown. Any­time the bus zoomed past an ap­proach­ing ve­hi­cle, a sea of dust was re­leased into the air thereby cloud­ing the sight.

The 90-minute jour­ney on the rough dirt road was ex­tremely un­com­fort­able. With trep­i­da­tion, I pon­dered on the health im­pli­ca­tion of sus­tained in­hal­ing of the toxic air. By then it was so glar­ing the ex­tent of ne­glect and un­told hard­ship peo­ple in the area were en­coun­ter­ing.

Aside the ap­palling state of the road, the area ap­peared bereft of so­cial ameni­ties. Some of the ba­sic schools sit­u­ated by the road­side looked ex­tremely di­lap­i­dated.

Soon the huge rocks were no­tice­able. We must be ap­proach­ing the quarry, I as­sumed. Min­utes af­ter the bus en­tered Manso Adu­bia vil­lage, quite vis­i­ble was the no­tice in­form­ing res­i­dents of a sched­uled blast­ing at the quarry around 5.20 P.M that day. They were ad­vised to keep off the quarry area for their own safety. It was writ­ten by Asanko Gold Mines.

Fif­teen min­utes later, a tall sign­post say­ing wel­come in Twi lan­guage was the only pointer that we were within the precinct of the Asanko Gold Mines. This is Manso Nkran, the host of the Asanko Gold Mines. The lo­cal­ity was pro­foundly ru­ral. Nearly all the res­i­den­tial build­ings were mud houses. A por­tion of some of the houses had fallen off. From the look of things, they were still in­hab­ited. I no­ticed that the pub­lic school in the vil­lage was a block of two class rooms.

The road to the mines was cov­ered with earth. It was soaked with wa­ter that morn­ing, pre­sum­ably. The ma­jor mode of pub­lic trans­porta­tion in the area was by mo­tor cy­cle. Oc­ca­sion­ally taxis plied the route. I was lucky to get a taxi go­ing to the Mines. At the gate, the guard sent me away, say­ing that the of­fi­cial I sought to see didn’t in­ti­mate him of my com­ing.

Dur­ing the ride back, I en­gaged the cab driver in con­ver­sa­tion. My first con­cern was how they coped with the mass of dust they in­haled daily.

His re­ply was ex­pected. “The peo­ple are suf­fer­ing.” He lamented over the ap­palling con­di­tions around them. There was no safe drink­ing wa­ter in the vil­lage. Res­i­dents have to trek long dis­tances to fetch wa­ter in the sur­round­ing vil­lages for their house­hold uses. Il­le­gal min­ing is pop­u­larly re­ferred to as ‘galam­sey.’ Orig­i­nally, a de­riv­a­tive used in the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties to de­scribe il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties. But it has gained no­to­ri­ety to the ex­tent that the word is of­fi­cially re­ceived in the lex­i­con of the coun­try

Asanko Gold Mines lo­cated in Manso Nkran in Manso Adu­bia District of Ashanti Re­gion ,is one of the largest gold min­ing com­pa­nies in Ghana. It is cur­rently pro­duc­ing.

East of Manso Adu­bia District is Aman­sie Cen­tral District. Obuasi is the ma­jor min­ing com­mu­nity in the area. Min­ing in the hilly town of Obuasi pre­dates Ghana’s in­de­pen­dence. Bounded by large rocks, the town aptly earned the ep­i­thet the “Gold City.” Min­ing is the main­stay of the com­mu­nity. Though an agrar­ian com­mu­nity, farm­ing is not done on a large scale in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Obuasi is syn­ony­mous with gold min­ing and it is as­so­ci­ated with all the trills and frills that come with the huge pres­ence of ex­pa­tri­ates. Night life used to be in­tense in the com­mu­nity, I was told. One of Ghana’s largest gold­mines, the An­glo Gold Asante (AGA) or Obuasi Mines is sit­u­ated in the area.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sus­tain­abil­ity Man­ager of An­glo Gold Asante, Mr. Nana Amopofo Bekoe, the com­pany has been op­er­at­ing in Ghana since 2004 ,and has in­vested over a bil­lion dol­lars in the Obuasi port­fo­lio. But since 2014 it has stopped pro­duc­ing gold, be­cause of some re­claim­ing ex­er­cise still tak­ing place in the Mines, Bekoe in­di­cated.

Konongo is about 30 min­utes’ drive from Ku­masi. It is also a lead­ing player in the min­ing in­dus­try. Ow­erre Mines is sit­u­ated in the town.

An­glo Gold Asante, Asanko Gold and Ow­erre Mines can be cat­e­go­rized as the big play­ers in the in­dus­try. On the other side are the small scale le­gal min­ers. No­table among them are Gold Spear Ven­tures, Yabad Con­struc­tion, Naachuaa Quarry and Gran­ite Lim­ited.

One can­not ig­nore other op­er­a­tors, es­pe­cially the small scale min­ers. For in­stance, in Obuasi com­mu­nity alone, there are close to 20,000 li­censed small scale min­ers. They op­er­ate un­der


A worker at Ashanti Gold­field Com­pany’s big mine in Obuasi, Ghana VOA News

Another view of Manso Nkran

Manso Nkran, host vil­lage of Asanko Gold

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