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Farmers protest cutting down of cocoa trees for gold mining

  • SOURCE: | Editor
  • cocoaCocoa farmers in the Gwira Traditional Area in the Western Region have expressed their displeasure at a move to cut down their cocoa tress to pave way for gold mining.

    They contended that cocoa farming had been the major vocation they inherited from their ancestors which had helped them feed themselves and their children over a century and it would be unwise to trade it for gold.

    The spokesperson for the farmers, Opanyin Cephas Kwame, said the amount of compensation being paid per cocoa tree was woefully inadequate.

    The farmers expressed these sentiments at a public forum organised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for West Star Mining and Blue River Mining companies.

    The assessment forms part of the process of the proposed lower Ankobra basin alluvial gold mining project.

    Opanyin Kwame suggested that instead of the two companies paying a meagre one-off compensation to the farmers, they should rather pay the farmer every month till the land was reclaimed and returned to the farmer.

    He wanted to know what he would be doing (at his age) if today he was paid a meagre one-off payment and in future he wallowed in abysmal poverty, while the gates of the mining company would be shut to the farmers.

    According to him, the one-off payment that would be given to farmers was not enough to assist them acquire the same size of land elsewhere. Besides, there would be no money left to cultivate the new land to the stage it had reached now.

    He said it would be wrong for the mining companies to destroy their lifetime investment passed on to them from generation to generation.

    For his part, the Managing Director of the two mining companies, Mr Simon Enison, acknowledged the concerns raised by the farmers and assured that the company would ensure them the farmers did not lose their source of livelihood completely.

    He said the compensation package would be such that the farmers could have an alternative and sustainable source of livelihood despite losing the cocoa farm.

    An official of the EPA indicated that West Star Mining Company Limited and Blue River Mining Company Limited would limit land clearing to the immediate mining site and that future mining sites would not be cleared.

    The consultant to the companies, Mr Bright Afum of the University of Mines and Technology (UMAT), said the companies were prepared to pay compensation to all the farmers who would be affected by the exercise.

    He said the company would establish an alternative and sustainable livelihood programme that would support the farmers in the catchments areas where the company would operate, adding that special attention would be given to the farmers whose lands fell within the concession zone allocated to the mining companies.

    Mr Afum said a committee would be established to draw up a comprehensive compensation package, which would be 10 per cent more than the compensation package that was demanded by the government to be given to the affected communities.

    According to him, a Corporate Social Agreement (CSA)  would also be signed between the company and the traditional area.

    The CSA would include an educational fund, health fund, employment quota, among others.

    Source: Moses Aklorbortu/ Daily Graphic

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