Inside Ghana’s gold industry
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