Tamale — THE OPERATION of two giant companies, Cardero Canada and Emmaland Resources Limited, who are undertaking exploration work at Sheini in the Tatale-Sanguli district of Northern Region to confirm the availability and quantity of Iron Ore deposit at the Sheini Hills is in danger, as Chiefs and people of the area are raising serious objections.
The aggrieved youth of Sheini and its surrounding communities have threatened to pick up arms with the companies to stop them from polluting their only source of drinking water, killing their livestocks, destroying their farms and also causing harm to the environment in general, without any recourse to the basic mining laws.
At a Press Conference in Tamale, jointly organized by angry youth and members of the Media Advocate for Sustainable Environment (MASE), a network of senior environmental journalists in Ghana, the people of Sheini placed on record that they could not cooperate any longer with Cardero Canada and Emmaland Resources Ltd to continue to endanger their lives and properties.
The National Coordinator of MASE, Mr. Francis B. Npong and the Chief Convener of MASE, Mr. Abdellah Kassim, on behalf of the Chiefs and people of Sheini asserted that the two companies, since the commencement of their operations in the area in the last two years, had unjustifiably undermined the authority of the traditional rulers and also refused to cooperate with the people. The Sheini Iron Ore concession, which was discovered in the 1960s and proved to be viable and in commercial quantity by the Soviet Geologists, is one of the finest and largest iron ore ever discovered in Africa. Other subsequence geological surveys conducted recently by various mining companies have also confirmed the viability of the minerals buried under the Sheini Hills.
Sheini has three Hills which are rich in iron. The analysis on the stones at Sheini Hills by some of these companies indicated that the stones were about 80.9 per cent rich in iron ore with traces of other minerals; including diamond, bauxite, manganese, silica, clinker and potassium.
The concession could be mined continuously on daily basis for 100 years without depletion. The discovering of Sheini iron ore was the effort of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, but was left unattended to after his government was overthrown.
The Sheini Iron ore Concession is a national strategic resource reserve for the purpose of northern development, and that the opening of the mine will create employment to the teeming unemployed and reduce the upscale of youth migration from the region to the southern sector in search of non existing jobs," the National Coordinator of MASE disclosed.
According to the youth and the Media Advocates, the Chief of Sheini, Obore Chamaya Poadi had made several efforts to invite the Management of the two companies to dialogue and find amicable solution to the problems facing the communities, as a result of their operations, but none of those invitations had been honoured.
They indicated that since the miners entered the area, all the animals such as antelopes, grass cutters, monkeys and wild birds had migrated elsewhere, due to the daily noise they produce. The communities are also restricted from entering into the forest by the miners. The Sheini youth and the Media Advocates bemoaned that hundreds of domestic animals belonging to community members had been knocked down and killed by the moving vehicles of the miners, such as fowls, goats, sheep, cows and dogs. They emphasized that the miners disregarded all safety measures to wash mining chemicals into the only stream serving as a source of drinking water to the people.
"We were warned by the miners not to drink from the stream again because they have washed some chemicals into the stream. But most of our farmers did not adhere to the warning because the companies or government did not provide alternative source of water for them.
"As we speak now, there is no other source of water. Our chief invited the companies so that they can discuss ways of getting the people a dam or mechanized borehole but they refused. And now the danger is that irrespective of where the water is fetched from, it is the same stream that passes through all the communities, and the end effect may be dangerous".
They said that the only wooden foot-bridge linking the communities to the other side of the stream had been damaged by the companies for over a year now, without any attempt to repair it.
The group also complained that sizeable number of farm crops, teak plantation, shea and dawadawa trees, as well as vegetation covers had been destroyed by the miners when they were constructing link roads to the mining sites.
However no compensation whatsoever had been paid to any of the affected farmers as stated in the article 74 of the Mineral Act 2006 section (1) which says "The compensation to which an owner or lawful occupier may be entitled to, may include compensation for:
(a) Deprivation of the use or a particular use of the natural surface of the land or part of the land, (b) Loss of or damage to immovable properties (c) In the case of land under cultivation, loss of earnings or sustenance suffered by the owner or lawful occupier, having due regard to the nature of their interest in the land
(d) Loss of expected income, depending on the nature of crops on the land and their life expectancy.
What seems to have angered the people most, according to MASE and the youth, was the fact that the consent of the Chief and people of Sheini was never sought by the government, neither was appropriate documentation regarding the development plan showed or given to them.
The Media Advocates for Sustainable Environment according to their National Coordinator, Francis B. Npong is demanding that Cardero Canada and Emmaland Resources Ltd immediately re-construct the foot bridge they had damaged, provide water purification system to the communities and also construct boreholes in each of the communities in Sheini area.
The group is also demanding that the companies refrain from washing chemicals into the river body and develop a system to discharge their waste, that the Mineral Commission publish information about Sheini iron ore deal for accountability purposes, that the mineral commission office should be opened at the district level to enable the communities pass their complains through it, that all farmers whose farm crops and other properties were destroyed should be appropriately compensated by Cardero Canada and Emmaland Resources Ltd, that the government recognize the social, economic, cultural and traditional rights of the people of Sheini, that the people's consent should properly be sought before full scale mining operations begin and finally the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) immediately conduct an environmental impact assessment at Sheini.