The police in Kumasi on Tuesday fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of small-scale miners who thronged the Gyanfua Assenso Park, near the Asokwa Divisional Police Command, to demonstrate against the moratorium placed on small-scale mining by the government.
The police also arrested at least 10 people for allegedly carrying offensive implements such as knives. Those arrested are believed to have joined the demonstrators for other motives.
The demonstrators, who arrived at the park in buses, were clad in specially printed red T-shirts, while others wore head and arm bands.
They carried a big banner with the inscription: ‘Save small-scale mining and save Ghana’.
Although the police had initially given approval to the Small-Scale Miners Association to hold the demonstration, they notified the leadership of the association just last Monday night that they were unable to mobilise enough men to provide the demonstrators with security.
The police, therefore, asked the association to reschedule the demonstration for another day.
The Public Relations Officer of the Ashanti Regional Police Command, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ms Juliana Obeng, said the police had to resort to the use of tear gas as a crowd control measure to disperse the demonstrators.
She said the police had informed the leadership of the association of their inability to mobilise enough men to provide security for the demonstrators because they had to attend to other security challenges emerging in the region.
Again, she said, the demonstrators had told the police that they would start the procession from the Heroes Park of the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, but the demonstrators later changed the route and rather decided to converge on a new place.
An executive member of the Small-scale Miners Association, Mr Mike Gizo, explained that the association was compelled to change the venue because after securing the place, the leadership was informed last Monday night that it could no longer use the place.
He explained that the members wanted to go on demonstration to plead with the government to lift the moratorium placed on small-scale mining to enable them to work to earn a living.
He said they had complied with all the directives from the government asking them to clear their equipment from their concessions and stop mining for six months, while the government fine-tuned the system to rid it of illegal operators.
According to him, “being law-abiding citizens, we complied with all these directives, but it has been more than six months since the ban was announced”.
“We have taken loans to invest in the business and the banks are on our necks. We have our families to feed and we can’t bear it any longer. We need to go back to work and we are appealing to the government to come to our aid,” he said.
He said the association wanted a road map from the government that would indicate or tell the miners how soon they could return to work.