The Shameless Gold Digers of Talensi

18 Min Read

My first encounter with the word ‘gold digger’ came during the black-and-white television era.

I was still at the basic school level at the time.

I was watching an African film when I heard an actress, who was rich in the movie and did not like a poor man her daughter introduced to the wealthy family as her suitor, warn her child (after the stranger had left) that the man she just introduced was a gold digger.

Observing that nothing seemed convincing enough to change her daughter’s mind, she further threatened to disown her if she failed to end that relationship forthwith with the young man.

Now, if you guessed that the woman had her say but her daughter still had her way, your conclusion would be right. And if you guessed that she also apologised to her daughter and son-in-law in the end and they lived happily ever after, your presumption would be accurate, too. That is how African love stories generally are told.

After watching the movie, I remembered the newfound word— gold digger— and curiously asked those who knew better to help me with its meaning. The meaning they gave, in the context of the movie, suggested the man was perceived and branded as one who was not interested in marriage but in the family’s wealth.

Years later, dictionaries bettered my understanding of the term as a person who digs for gold or one who associates with others purposely to extract money from them.

Blood Gold

After my first encounter with the word ‘gold digger’ during childhood, I finally came into contact with gold diggers in Talensi later in life.

Talensi is an abundantly resourced but extremely underdeveloped district found in the Upper East, a region in northern Ghana.

For many years, the district, crowded with all kinds of economic trees, hosted only indigenous small-scale concessionaires granted access underground to top-grade gold in commercial deposits.

Those years passed peacefully in the district until a Chinese corporation, called Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, arrived at Gban, the district’s main gold-mining centre, in 2008.

The Chinese did not come on their own. They were invited by Charles Taleog Ndanbon, a small-scale miner and politician who owns a 25-acre concession named Yenyeya Small-Scale Mining Group in the district.

He brought the Chinese company in as a partner to assist his small-scale mining business technically. The Asians also entered into a similar agreement with Alhaji Awudu Paara Nabil, owner of Pubortaaba Mining Group, on another 25-acre concession next to Ndanbon’s goldfield.

The technical services the Chinese company was invited to offer have occasioned a series of technical scandals and technical slaughters for which Talensi has been in the headlines from 2008 to date.

Deaths and injuries, recorded at a frequency and on a scale never seen before in the history of mining in the district, became commonplace. The mineral, which was gifted by nature to better the lives of the natives, became so regularly associated with avoidable killings and butcheries that people got scared and renamed it Blood Gold.

My Encounter with Gold Diggers

Shaanxi, now called Earl International Group (Ghana) Gold Limited, has an unmatched record of trespassing into other companies’ concessions in Talensi.

Internationally, Shaanxi has China’s backing. Nationally, it has the backing of the Government of Ghana. Locally, it has the backing of some traditional authorities, government officials, media practitioners and state security agents.

There are some crimes Shaanxi has committed, for which Ghanaians would go to jail if found culpable of those crimes, but for which Shaanxi either received only a slap on the wrist or did not even get a warning finger under what I consider the most irresponsible and reckless government Ghana has ever seen.

Gban, the community where Shaanxi operates in Talensi, has no police post or a police station today despite the deafening complaints incessantly lodged by residents about armed robbery attacks within the locality. However, the Government of Ghana has provided a police post and a military detachment to protect the Chinese company.

Some members of the community also have complained that some media houses and media practitioners in the region do not report any human rights abuses associated with the company but they are quick to prepare and present only the news or features that make the Chinese company look good in public.

When Shaanxi breaks a law in Ghana, it gets away with it through the aid of a Ghanaian. Sixteen Ghanaians were killed in 2019 in an underground explosion for which Ghana’s Minerals Commission, following the loudest public outcry ever heard in northern Ghana and after an investigation by a committee into the explosion, held Shaanxi responsible.

The Minerals Commission only fined Shaanxi $40,000. The sixteen slain men were branded in death as illegal miners by Shaanxi’s local allies and the inconsolable families of the explosion victims were neither appeased nor compensated.

A father to one of the victims, Patrick Ghaatuon, insisted his son was not an illegal miner and, while his eyes streamed with tears behind dark spectacles, he asked: “Even if my son was an illegal miner, should Shaanxi take the law into its hand by killing him?”

From 2019 to date, no Shaanxi official has been standing any trial anywhere in Ghana for the 2019 mass slaughter of 16 Ghanaians.

After Shaanxi reportedly trespassed into a concession owned by an Australian large-scale miner, Cassius Mining Company, and the Australians dragged the Chinese to a High Court in Bolgatanga, the region’s capital, the Ghanaian judge sitting on the case, Justice Jacob Bawine Boon, held secret meetings with the Chinese at his residence no fewer than four times.

When I caught the Chinese with the judge at that residence, a Ghanaian minister of state at the presidency, Rockson Ayine Bukari, sought to help Shaanxi get away with another crime by contacting me to conceal the dark secrets.

I am not a Minerals Commission CEO. I am not an Akufo-Addo minister or DCE. I am not a security service commander. I am not a paramount chief. I am not a media practitioner who is looking for bribe money in exchange for the truth. I am not an officer of the judiciary. I am not a gold digger. I am Edward Adeti.

Bukari and Shaanxi officials brought bribes to me and, in addition to the bribes, made unsolicited proposals that were substantial enough to cater for a whole family even if I did not work for the rest of my life only if I kept secret from the public. I do not enjoy bribes, no matter how big or small they are. So, I exposed their secret and their bribes to the public.

But I nearly paid for being stubborn with my life, and at the risk of also losing my family, when their supporters launched an immediate attack on my home and, more incensed for meeting no one in the house, took some belongings away from us after breaking into the apartment.

Shaanxi later escaped punishment through the same Government of Ghana, but at least Rockson Bukari’s resultant resignation and how Justice Boon ended his career, transferred and stripped of his status as a supervising judge, made some judges sit tight on cases involving Shaanxi thereafter.

If I did not expose them, the poor would not get justice before such a judge and such a judge should not progress to the appellate courts of any country.

Just two weeks ago, a desperate attempt made by the Government of Ghana to drive some Ghanaians away from their licensed concessions at Gban in favour of Shaanxi resulted in state security agencies firing live ammunition into a crowd of protesters and killing at least two Ghanaians, including a university student who was not even a miner. The other natives wounded by the bullets are yet to recover.

Any Ghanaian killed in favour of Shaanxi is quickly branded an illegal miner by local authorities to divert public sympathy from the victim.

But Shaanxi, who has trespassed into concessions and has been caught with watertight evidence at least twice and had to compensate one of its trespass preys (the Unique Mining Group) in one instance, has never been called an illegal miner yet by the same local authorities and allies.

Paid to be Silent?

We have heard some concerned natives of Talensi say some media practitioners in the region are being paid to pretend they do not see any scandals or human rights transgressions linked to Shaanxi but rather project the company on paper, online and on air as a trustworthy investor.

We have not seen any evidence substantiating those claims yet. But I have observed that the actions of some reporters and presenters in the region are giving the public cause to accept as true the claims made by the concerned Talensi natives that some supposed watchdogs have ‘sold’ or ‘bartered’ their microphones, keypads and pens to the Chinese company for cash, favours and opportunities.

Notwithstanding, some media practitioners in the region are not in the good books of Shaanxi because they are committed to reporting nothing but the whole truth and asking probing questions in the interest of the state and for the public good.

Unfortunately, such media practitioners are few in the region. They are not up to ten, I suppose. And the people of the region know them.

The people of the region also know the media practitioners who have turned themselves into ‘beauticians’, engrossed in dressing the company’s self-scarred face; who have turned themselves into ‘surgeons’, providing the company with plastic surgery services; and who have transformed themselves into ‘lawyers’, fiercely defending the company and its allies.

There is a difference between a gold miner and a gold digger. A gold miner is more interested in the land than the gold. A gold digger is more interested in the gold than the land.

The main trait or characteristic of a gold digger is that they do not tell the truth to the gold bearer. There is nothing to show on the surface, in terms of infrastructure, for the abundant gold deposits in Talensi.

Sadly, it is so because the gold diggers in Talensi far outnumber the gold miners found there. Sadly, it is so because some chiefs, government appointees, media practitioners, security service personnel and some natives of the area together with Shaanxi are only interested in the gold in Talensi and not the development of the area and the well-being of its people.

They are the best examples of gold diggers anybody can point at. Anybody who is attracted only to the gold in Talensi and not the interest of its people is a gold digger.

Anybody who puts the interest of Shaanxi above the interest of Talensi is a gold digger. Anybody who gives a bribe and anybody who receives a bribe to protect Shaanxi at the expense of Talensi and the expense of ethics is a gold digger.

Be that person a native, a stranger, a paramount chief, a divisional chief, a sub-chief, a regent, a government appointee, a judge, a police officer, a soldier, a journalist, a cleric, a lawyer, an assembly member, a civil servant, a gold miner— they are gold diggers if they put their interests and that of Shaanxi above the welfare and wellbeing of Talensi.


I conclude with this true story about a man who made a lot of money in West Africa by trafficking hard drugs from Africa to America and Europe.

He enrolled his children in the best of schools and could only hope that they would be greater than he was.

But years later, his children mysteriously became drug addicts. He simply could not tell how they slipped into a taste for hard drugs and how they advanced into addiction.

There was nowhere the rich man did not go in search of a solution to the children’s deteriorating conditions. It was beyond rehabilitation. When his misery peaked, he sneaked into a soothsayer’s sanctuary for help.

The soothsayer revealed that his trouble was karma or fate he had to face for the countless young lives he destroyed abroad through the trafficking of cocaine and other hard drugs. The fortune-teller told the rich man he could not destroy other people’s children because of money and expected his children to end well in life.

The oracle also soothsaid that even if he dissipated all the money he had made from the illegal trade in a bid to restore the children from the drug addiction and end up as poor as he began his life, nothing would change. And nothing ever changed.

It is the fathers who have eaten the sour grapes, but it is the children who have their teeth set on the edge. At times, it is the innocent children who suffer the consequences of their parents’ selfish actions. Food eaten by fraud passes through the throat full of sand, says an African proverb.

Shaanxi, according to a Minerals Commission report, produces “90% of all gold ore” in the Upper East region. But Talensi, where the gold is regularly being taken away in breathtaking quantities to China, remains thoroughly bereft of public amenities today.

The souls of all the innocent natives killed through the actions of Shaanxi are lying awake together with the gold in the belly of Talenteng (Talensi land), crying underground for justice because they were forced to depart before their time.

The gold diggers who are helping Shaanxi to get away with everything and the gold backsliders who have lost their voices and returned to Shaanxi and its allies because of fleeting money should keep piling up their gains for the rains sent forth by karma. Justice will strike one midnight.

It is high time the populace realised that Talensi cannot settle for less and that every human right abused by Shaanxi and its local helpers must be accounted for.

And to those who have decided to sit on the fence as the future of Talensi is being plundered in broad daylight, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu (of blessed memory) is telling you that:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

By Edward Adeti

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