Farmers resident within the Ahafo North Mine enclave of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) have appealed to the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II to intervene for amicable settlement of a stalemate between them and the company.
The farmers scattered across Adrobaa, Yamfo, Afrisipakrom, Susuanso and Terchire in the Tano North Municipality of the Ahafo Region said Otumfuo Osei Tutu II the overlord of the Area must step in to resolve the impasse for them to get what is fair and rightful compensation to pave way for NGGL to commence operation in the area.
Some of the affected farmers of the mine’s operation in the five mining communities led by one Dr. Samuel Kumi, spokesperson sought an order at the Sunyani High Court restraining the company from operations due to matters relating to compensation.
Since the injunction was granted, the multi-national mining company, which was in the process of paying compensation to the farmers whose activities were directly or indirectly affected by the Mine has halted all activities in the enclave.
But, speaking in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of a news conference to register their displeasure about the Court injunction held at Susuanso, the farmers said as an overlord of the area, they believed only the Asantehene could intervene for out of court settlement.
Focus, a farmer-based non-governmental organisation operating in the five Ahafo North Mine’s catchment area that works to promote community development, human rights and environmental sustainability organised the news conference to highlight emerging community issues relating to the Mine.
Mr Victor Gyabaah, the Focus Secretary, regretted several attempts made by chiefs in the mining communities to settle the impasse between the farmers and the Mine remained unsuccessful, saying until the Court case was determined, the company could not resume operations.
“As an overlord of the five traditional areas, we think the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II and the Asanteman must quickly intervene” he said.
Mr Gyabaah indicated that since the mine acquired the Ahafo North concessional area, it had denied affected farmers the opportunity to engage in commercial farm work which had affected their socio-economic lives and entire livelihoods.
He said the only hope now for the farmers was to get their compensation to engage in alternative livelihood opportunities and other viable economic ventures for the upkeep of themselves and their families.
Mr Joseph Baffour Darkwah, another affected farmer, and Adrobaa Local President, Focus, explained delays in payment of compensation by Newmont due to the Court injunction on the Mine’s operations had worsened the living conditions of the affected farmers.
There was therefore an urgent need for the Asantehene to mediate to pave the way for the company to resume operations and facilitate payment of compensation to the farmers.
Mr Isaac Kwaku Owusu Peprah, the Assemblyman for Afrisipakrom/Susuanso Electoral Area, explained Newmont had already acquired the concessional area and appealed to the aggrieved farmers to use dialogue and negotiation in seeking redress for their grievances.
He said the five mining communities stood to benefit a lot from the operations of Newmont in the areas of development, saying the Mine would open up and attract investments into the towns.
Madam Bertha Osei Bonsu, another affected farmer regretted that the socio-economic lives and standard of living of many women farmers in the communities continued to worsen and called on the aggrieved farmers to opt for out of court settlement so that the Mine could resume operations and facilitate compensation to alleviate the plight of the locals.
Meanwhile, the Ahafo North Resettlement and Negotiation Committee (AN-RNC), a body to negotiate resettlement and compensation related agreements, including deprivation of land use and immovable properties held its maiden meeting on Thursday, March 18,2021.
According to reliable sources, the meeting agreed on a community valuer to support the AN-RNC in their negotiations as required by the LI2l75.
“It is for this reason that at the fourth meeting of the AN-RNC, on Friday, May 14, 2021, a five-member ad-hoc committee comprising a representative each from Adrobaa, Afrisipakrom, Susuanso, Terchire and Yamfo was formed to aid the finding of a community valuer, the sources stated.
During the seventh meeting of the AN-RNC on Friday, June 11, 2021, the ad-hoc committee presented its report to the AN-RNC, and it was indicated in its report that six applicants applied for the position of community valuer.
According to the sources, after a careful and thorough study of the applications, three out of the six applicants were subsequently shortlisted for an interview.
But only two of the shortlisted applicants showed up in person during the interview and after careful scrutiny, a majority decision was taken and Professor O. Asiama was agreed on as the community valuer.
“Some individuals within the committee pushed strongly that a company that had just been formed should serve as the valuation company for the AN-RNC over a company that has been in existence since May 1991 with a lot of experience regarding valuation”.
“But because their preferred choice of valuer was not accepted, it consequently led to a breakaway of Yamfo and Afrisipakrom from the AN-RNC. That is, Yamfo and Afrisipakrom wanted their own AN-RNC and there was an impasse,” the sources stated.
The matter travelled through a lot of stakeholders including the Ahafo Regional Minister, the Tano North Municipal Chief Executive and the five chiefs of Adrobaa, Afrisipakrom, Susuanso, Terchire and Yamfo and finally got to Asantehene Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II.
“Otumfuo subsequently directed that the two communities should go back to the AN-RNC, and the valuer selected by the majority remains the valuer, but after the intervention of Otumfuo, there were subsequent meetings by stakeholders to regularize the decree of Otumfuo and this led to the two communities coming back to join the AN-RNC”.
“When they came back to the AN-RNC, they raised the issue about the valuer again and that they wanted to add their own valuer to the valuer already selected by the majority and that resulted in the disagreement.”
“The matter was referred to the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum and the forum upon deliberation decided to go back to Otumfuo for clarity on the matter”, the sources explained.
Accordingly, the 10 ten community chiefs of chiefs of Adrobaa, Afrisipakrom, Gyedu, Kenyasi Number one, Kenyasi Number two, Susuanso, Terchire, Wamahinso and Yamfo together with the Ahafo Regional Minister, the Tano North Municipal Chief Executive as well as Newmont Representatives, and the Moderators of the AN-RNC went back to Otumfuo on April 8, 2022 where the Asantehene indicated clearly that he wanted to see one negotiation committee and endorsed the valuer (Professor S.O. Asiama) selected by the majority.
The AN-RNC resumed its committee meetings, and the valuer was introduced to the committee through the moderators of the AN-RNC at a meeting on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at the nineteenth meeting of the AN-RNC.
The source indicated the valuer assumed full duty and engaged the AN-RNC except Newmont representatives to provide understanding of his scope of work as a valuer and gave members an opportunity for clarification.
It is against this background, the sources stated that the two communities who were not satisfied with the appointment of the valuer, sent the matter to Court, which had halted the operations of Newmont in the Ahafo North enclave.
The sources noted dragging the case at Court was a gross disrespect to Asantehene Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II and the Asanteman and appealed to the aggrieved farmers to reconsider their decision and opt for out of Court settlement in the supreme interest of all the people whose farming activities had in one way or the other affected by the operations of the mining company.
By Dennis Peprah, GNA