In 2017, Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited, a Chinese state-backed mining firm known previously as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, acquired a parcel of land in Talensi, a district in the Upper East Region, for large-scale mining operations.

Positioned in the east of the district, the company’s large-scale mining operational base covers an area of 16.02 square kilometres— the size of about 4,000 standard football fields combined.

Parts of the land were already occupied by some small-scale miners before the foreign company acquired the land. But because the space had been secured by the company for a large-scale mining business— with the Minerals Commission’s blessing— the small-scale miners were compelled to surrender their concessions to the company.

Parts of the land occupied by Earl International Group (GH) Gold Ltd in Talensi.

And after surrendering their concessions, the company gave 1 million United States dollars to the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council (UERCC) in 2021. The money was meant to be shared among the small-scale miners.

The company labelled the money as a “goodwill” fund. But the UERCC termed it “compensation” money.

Before the small-scale miners received the ‘goodwill-compensation’ money from the UERCC, the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Martin Ayisi, reportedly held a meeting with them and asked them to buy chairs for the government.

The said meeting took place inside the UERCC’s conference hall in Bolgatanga, the region’s capital.

After they received their money, some of them contributed cash to purchase the furniture. But some declined to make any contribution. Some of those who contributed told Media Without Borders they were made to do so against their will.

The regional minister corroborated the small-scale miners’ claims, saying they (the small-scale miners) were made to buy chairs for the UERCC’s conference hall as part of their corporate social responsibility. The demand for the chairs, he said, was led by the Minerals Commission during the meeting.

“That day, it was even the Minerals Commission saying, ‘You companies, social responsibility, if you can offer chairs to the RCC, it would be nice’. They have brought about thirty chairs,” the regional minister told Media Without Borders.

When Media Without Borders contacted the Minerals Commission’s CEO for his comments on the regional minister’s claims, he denied making such a demand.

“Does anybody buy this kind of thing for the government? I don’t know anything about this. I’ve not spoken to anybody about this,” he said.

The chairs are in the conference hall of the UERCC.

But the small-scale miners insist Mr Ayisi jointly made the demand with the regional minister. They say the Minerals Commission boss even mentioned how he could introduce them to a furniture dealer in Accra, Ghana’s capital, to supply them with leather chairs for the UERCC.

“We opposed it. But they still went ahead and took huge amounts from our money. And after they took the money, they went and bought some furniture and said it was donated by the small-scale miners’ association. Who donated it?” one of the small-scale miners, Abdulai Amaligo, said in anger.

Abdulai Amaligo, one of the aggrieved small-scale miners.

Another voice could be heard in the background as Amaligo vented his frustration, furiously saying “the schoolchildren who are learning in classrooms without chairs in Talensi rather deserve furniture, not government”.

“The regional minister said the government needed executive chairs. How can small-scale miners buy chairs for the government? Why should a politician put his hands in the gold money meant for small-scale miners? We were forced to contribute huge amounts of money to buy the chairs,” Matthew Tindanzie of the Unique Mining Group said.

Matthew Tindanzie says he was forced to contribute towards the purchase of the chairs.

“Government’s demand for furniture is an illegal collection of money”

The miners claim the monies taken from them to buy the furniture were deducted at source by Robert Boazor Tampoare on behalf of the UERCC.

Tampoare, a one-time fierce critic of the Chinese mining company, reportedly chairs a small-scale miners association in the region. He is facing criticisms from some small-scale miners who say he now backs decisions that favour the Chinese mining company and its allies.

Tampoare declined to speak to the small-scale miners’ claims when Media Without Borders contacted him on the telephone.

Several lawyers in Ghana say the demand for the chairs from the small-scale miners as corporate social responsibility is “illegal” and “contrary to reason”.

“Anything that is not within the law is an illegality. Corporate social responsibility is not in the Minerals and Mining Act. It is nowhere in the minerals and mining laws that small-scale miners are obliged to deliver corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility is not imposed. It is voluntary.  

“To ask small-scale miners to contribute to buy chairs for the government by force as corporate social responsibility is so preposterous and illegal. This is illegal collection of money from small-scale miners. This is an illegality,” legal practitioner and Executive Director of Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Augustine Niber, told Media Without Borders.

The government-owned conference hall, for which the chairs were demanded, is a profit-making facility. It generates money for the UERCC regularly, according to a UERCC official. Government rents the facility to the public for a fee.

A prominent lawyer who doubles as the Upper East Regional Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Anthony Namoo, is reported to have once advised the regional minister to be cautious when dealing with mining issues.

Despite his legal advice, the chairs are still in the UERCC’s conference hall.

There are some inscriptions on the back of the chairs. The inscriptions, stenciled with a white paint, look blurred― and almost illegible.

The office block of the UERCC.

A source at the UERCC, who wished to remain anonymous, disclosed that the chairs were brought into the hall with the name of a small-scale miners’ group written behind each chair.

According to him, an attempt was made, following Namoo’s disapproval and caution, to erase the name from the leather chairs. He said because the paint had long dried, the attempt rather ended in partial erasure and blurriness of the name.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/



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