Illegal miners strike again: 75-Year-old widow scammed in farmland for 3-bedroom house deal



Frustrated, depressed, regrets, and disappointment are a few of the emotions one can visibly tell from the face and demeanour of Grace Konadu, a 75-year-old widow and resident of Akyem Abodom in the Eastern Region.

Vulnerable as she looks, Grace lives in an old makeshift wooden structure beaten by the weather due to years of neglect. This she shares with two of her children and three grandchildren. The children may be a source of solace, but it is an added responsibility for her to fend for them.

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This is where the 75-year-old, Grace and her family live. They were hoping for a better life when the miners came with promises

“My dream is to provide a better life for my family but this seems like a mirage. With limited opportunities for income generation from subsistence farming, I feel trapped in a cycle of poverty, unable to break free,” Grace stated. Her nightmare became more terrifying when she was tricked into giving away her vast arable land in exchange for a promise that was never fulfilled.

For, her land, which was meant for the cultivation of crops, was also identified by miners as a preferred site for gold prospecting and later, mined for three months.

The Promise

Akyem Abodom, predominantly a farming community in the Kwaebibirem District of the Eastern Region, was thrown into turmoil when miners with heavy equipment invaded the town prospecting for gold in early 2022.

Grace’s farmland was at the centre of the gold rush. The miners offered her a price for the three-acre land, but widowed Grace, regarding the land as an ancestral inheritance, had no interest in selling.

After being worn down by attrition, the poor widow agreed to release her land in return for a three-bedroom apartment. Her hope was that this deal would be an improvement in her family situation.

“We were convinced by Nana Sekyere Baffour Pobi Bamfo I, the Ankobeahene [caretaker of the palace] that, he owned the concession together with T&L District Ltd, a small-scale gold mining firm. They promised to end our family’s struggle if only we could lease our land for the gold mine,’’ Grace recalls.

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75-year-old Grace traded her farmland for a three-bed room house but says she has been given a raw deal

Grace and her family, like many others in the Kwaebibirem municipality, rely on subsistence farming for survival. The family’s three-acre farm provides them with enough food to eat and some surplus to sell. This, however, changed when they agreed to lease their land for gold mining.

She told The Fourth Estate that even though she was not happy to let go of her source of livelihood, she was happy to finally get a befitting place of abode for her family when the company promised to compensate her adequately with a three-bedroom house for her and the family. According to her, the verbal agreement was between the family, the mining company, and the Ankobeahene – the supposed co-owner of the mining concession.

It was agreed that the three-bedroom apartment would be fully completed within two months excluding the electricity connection. The company also agreed to reclaim and restore the land after its mining activities.

Although not documented, Grace says the family agreed to these terms on June 24, 2022, and the building was to be completed on August 23, 2022, for immediate use.

“We were not convinced giving [the farmland] out since that was our only source of livelihood and therefore opposed the proposal, but the company insisted. We also believed that our lives would improve significantly after the mining company starts its operations since they agreed to build while they mine. We also needed a place to call home,’’ Grace told The Fourth Estate.

Drowned Hopes

It’s almost a year and T & L, the mining company, is yet to fulfil its side of the bargain, leaving the poor widow and her family in despair. As the sun sets, casting a gloomy hue over the wooden structure, Grace sits on a worn-out chair, her dreams shattered, with her thoughts consumed by the unmet needs of her family. Instead of a three-bedroom house, all the company parted with is one hundred (100) bags of cement for moulding blocks.

“The miners asked me to use my money [GH₵2000] to pay for the block moulding, but they have still refused to pay me. The only money they issued apart from the 100 bags of cement is GH₵ 2,000. From that, GH₵ 1,000 was used to pay for the evacuation of the foundation and GH₵1,000 used to cater for other things such as people who fetched water for the blocks to be molded among others,’’ Bright Kobby Owusu Baffour Ampofo, a 29-year-old grandson of Grace told The Fourth Estate.

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The family spent money on the foundation, hoping that the miners will pay for it. The deep rectangular pit created from digging of the foundation is filled with rainwater and debris

The building remains frozen in its unfinished state and stands as a haunting reminder of a once-promising project that never saw the light of day. Today, the deep rectangular pit created from digging of the foundation is filled with rainwater and debris.

Bright explained that after several months without progress, the family reached out to the NPP Constituency Chairman for Kade Justice Stephen Amponsah, who agreed to help bring closure to the matter.

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Grace and her family members are left with nothing but a foundation

“So together with the Constituency Chairman of Kade, we went to meet the Chief Executive Officer of T&L District Ltd at East Legon in Accra. He claimed the military came to stop the company from mining but promised to do all he can to complete the building and would instruct his boys to cover the dug-outs in two weeks from the time of the visit. They promised to add money, and since we had moulded the blocks already, we can continue with the building.

“So, after two weeks or one month, I called him that there is nothing happening, and he told me that the Ankobeahene has ordered his boys to seize their plant. He said ‘the cost of which can help to cover the pit and also help to put up the building to a level’. So, he has nothing to do with us again,’’ Grace’s grandson explained.

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The seized mining equipment

Out of desperation, the family tried to seek intervention from various authorities including the Chief of Akyem Abodom, Barima Nana Boadi III, but got no result.

When The Fourth Estate contacted the Ankobeahene, Nana Sekyere Baffour Pobi Bamfo I, the supposed co-owner of the concession , he denied any wrongdoing.

“The concession was not mine; they were doing community mining and I was the chairman of a committee set in place to ensure that mining is done well. This woman happens to be my Auntie. The miners went to her land without telling anybody, so I went to meet up with them to reach an agreement. We talked and at the end of the day, they worked on the land, not only her land, they worked on several peoples’ land as well.

“The day I heard that they went to Accra to meet the boss of the miners without telling me, I washed my hands because they didn’t give me the space to fight for them,” the Ankorbeahene explained.

T&L District Ltd’s response  

The Fourth Estate’s attempts via phone calls and text messages to reach the Manager of T&L District Ltd, Dominic Tawiah, (who is said to have supervised the mining in Akyem Abodom and its surrounding communities) proved futile. He did not respond to any of the calls or text messages. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, who only gave his name as Jude, also denied the company’s involvement in mining in the area.

“That is not my company, and I don’t have any agreement with anybody whatsoever,’’ he said, denying liability for the broken promise.

When The Fourth Estate asked for the name of his company, he went mute.

Grace’s grandson who gave The Fourth Estate Jude’s phone number wondered where he could have gotten the number from if there was no connection between him and Jude.

Although the NPP Constituency Chairman of Kade, Justice Stephen Amponsah, confirmed to The Fourth Estate that he met with the CEO of T&L District Ltd to bring closure to the matter, Jude denies knowledge of that meeting and says he doesn’t know anything about the issue.

T&L District is not registered mine

When The Fourth Estate checked the Mineral Commission’s Ghana Mining Repository – a portal that contains data on all issued mineral rights, exploration, mining, dealers, and exporters licenses – the company T&L District Limited was not on the list.

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) request by The Fourth Estate, the Minerals Commission confirmed that T&L District Limited is not a registered mining company and has not been granted any concession.

The Fourth Estate’s checks at the Registrar General’s Department showed that the company was registered on September 6, 2016, with Laud Odonkor and Philip Odonkor as its shareholders and directors.

According to the registration records, the company’s core principle activities are general merchant, road and building construction, real estate development, agro-business, media operations, and haulage.

The Fourth Estate could not find any digital footprint of the company. Efforts to get the contacts of the named directors and shareholders have not yielded fruit.

WACAM’s advise

While the septuagenarian grandmother mules over the regrets of lost land, and dream home, the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), a community-based human rights and environmental mining advocacy NGO, has urged individuals and communities to be circumspect when approached with juicy and lucrative offers from mining companies.

“We normally advice communities to know the position of the law. When giving out your land, ensure it is documented. We receive issues like this often but once proper arrangement is not made before giving the land out, it becomes difficult to follow-up. Companies will be here today and somewhere else tomorrow, so if you do not insist and document your engagement with them, they will not give you what is due you,’’ Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of WACAM told The Fourth Estate.

Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of WACAM

She continued:

‘’We don’t just give away lands, land cannot be created, you can’t create more land and once you lose your land, it is gone, and so we should be careful with some of these agreements. But we will continue to build their capacities to defend themselves.’’

A Case for Compensation

According to the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), mining companies are required to compensate affected landowners adequately, provide them with alternative livelihoods, and reclaim the land after mining.

Section 74(1) of the Act stipulates that:

“The compensation to which an owner or lawful occupier may be entitled, 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, (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.’’

For now, Grace and her family believe T & L has made enough gold from their farmland to compensate them as earlier agreed upon.

Their financial situation worsened when they realised that their farm, which was their only source of livelihood, had been destroyed by the mining activities of the company. She noted that the family is left to pick up the pieces and find a way to move forward after being let down by a company that had the power to change their lives for the better.

‘’This is a huge heartbreak and betrayal, where our trust has been shattered by empty promises from a company that we believed would bring us a suitable place to lay our heads,’’ Grace says.

Even worse, she laments the state of their farmland which currently holds no value.

“The land was left barren with deep pits uncovered, now we have no means to support ourselves. The promised arrangement from the company was our only hope, but it never came,’’ she said with tears running down her cheeks.


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