Written by: Duke Nii Amartey Tagoe
It has happened again! The pillage goes on and on. The Keta Lagoon in the Volta Region has been handed over to a salt mining company for $30,000 (Thirty Thousand Dollars).
The deal between the Ghana Minerals Commission and Kensington Industries Limited of India, will enable the company grab 7000 acres of the entire lagoon whilst 300metres at the periphery representing 3 percent (3%) of the lagoon will be left for the local salt miners.
What is worse, the company has departed from the agreement it signed with the Minerals Commission to use sea brine for salt production and has resorted to the use of surface water and underground pool by means of pipes and very huge pumping machines.
It has also emerged that long before Kensington Industries Limited was granted a licence to mine salt in the Adina-Denu area, it had already encroached on lands belonging to the neighboring communities in flagrant violation of the Mineral and Minning Act.
In a letter dated 18th November 2009 addressed to the elders of the Dogbekope Community , Rajesh Mehte, a director of the company, “acknowledged having encroached on their lands unlawfully without having been granted a licence. We apologise and withdraw immediately.” Janet Aglodo, a salt miner said “the fresh water, that used to flow from Togo into the lagoon, bringing in fish in the rainy season has been blocked by roads and dams constructed by the company. As a result the annual fishing and salt winning seasons that used to bring relief to the people have become a thing of the past since the lagoon dries up prematurely.”
An immovable fishing input on which fish traps were laid in the lagoon and which served as roosts and breeding grounds for water birds has been destroyed.
“It is highly unthinkable and we would have thought that by now the government, which we massively support and rally behind, would have made a statement. How can this government apportion the Keta Lagoon to foreigners to the neglect of his own subjects and indigenes who derive their entire livelihood and very existence from the lagoon” said Cynthia Gali of the of the Ketu-Keta Salt Winners Association. Pascal Lamptey, Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of the Ketu South Municipal Assembly has confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to undertake a proper environmental impact assessment before the license was granted to the company.
He revealed that Kensington Industries Limited reneged on its promises to provide some infrastructure for the area as part of its corporate social responsibility and that has led to mistrust between the two parties. Mr Lamptey said as a representative of the President of Ghana in the area, his most crucial obligation is to ensure that investment was brought to the area and jobs are created for the teeming youths.
According to him the government seeks to relegate under-development to the past by encouraging foreign investment in places that production was low for rapid growth. He said he has set up a sensitization committee to help the community and the company co-habitate with each other, leading to what be believes would bring about “peaceful development.”
That assertion by the Municipal Chief Executive has however been challenged by the National Coalition on Mining of the Third World Network (TWN). The coalition has expressed shock at the displacement and the destruction of the livelihood of more than three thousand eight hundred and ninety eight people (3898) in one single swoop.
The TWN contends that the major task and expectation of the Kensington Industries Limited is to make super profits for its shareholders back home by the use of cheap labour and wondered how the local people will benefit from this deal.
In a letter dated 25th January 2010 and addressed the Managing Director of the Kensington Industries Limited, Kofi Tetteh, Principal Sectoral Planning and Policy Officer of the Ghana Minerals Commission stated that the Commission has “favourably recommended to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to grant you a fifteen year licence to mine salt in the Keta Lagoon” ASP Naa Atolgo Agbogne at the Agbozome District Police Command has confirmed the arrest of some sixteen people in the recent clashes between the company and the youths of the area on the 2nd of December 2015.
According to him, such disturbances by the youths had halted operations of the company and had rendered it incapable of producing for a very long time. He wondered how the company could meet its corporate responsibilities in the area when they were being prevented from doing business. The sixteen local salt miners are languishing in jail at the Keta Divisional Divisional Command whilst another receiving treatment for bullet wounds at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital has been chained to his bed to avoid escape as he awaits prosecution. Salt has become a necessary ingredient in the human diet and a precious commodity on the local and international market. The increasing use of salt in the petrochemical industry has transformed and contributed immensely to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of many emerging nations.
Available statistics indicate that when managed properly, salt can fetch millions. In 2014, total salt exports in the world were $2.73 billion, which is an increase of 3.8% compared with 2013.