Galamsey disrupts GRIDCo’s work

…Company unable to do maintenance

The Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) is unable to carry out maintenance works on its transmission lines within the Akwatia, Nsutem and Anyinam communities in the Eastern Region because of illegal mining activities (galamsey) close to the grid towers.

The activities of the illegal miners have severely undermined the structural integrity of the towers that support the conductors, making them highly vulnerable to collapse.

Maintenance works on the Akwatia transmission sub-station, built in 1965 to 161 kilovolt (kV) of power for distribution to communities in the catchment area of the sub-station have, therefore, been suspended.

In an interview in Tema, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GRIDCo, Mr William Amuna, said the access routes to the site had been completely cut-off due to the excavation works carried out by the illegal miners.

In view of the galamsey activities around the sub-station, Mr Amuna said GRIDCo might not be able to respond to emergencies within the catchment area should there be a power trip which could result in outages in several communities within the transmission zone.

The GRIDCo, Mr Amuna said, had spent GH¢50, 000 to get some of the critical areas protected to avert a major disaster in the event of the collapse of a grid tower.

Similarly, the use of cyanide and other chemicals by the illegal miners in their operations, he said, had also caused some of the towers to corrode.

Pits

Apart from the illegal mining activities blocking access routes to the sites, Mr Amuna said the miners had also dug vertical pits under the transmission towers, causing the towers to flood anytime it rained.

The galamsey pits, he said, were covered with overgrown weeds such that the surface looked like a flat ground, “but in reality, some of the towers that have these dug-out pits are just hanging.”

He said further that the situation had caused massive mud slides which could completely destroy the towers if GRIDCo was unable to mobilise to recover the area immediately.

“Excavation for gold around the structures have seen severe flooding of the lines each time there were rains and this could likely cause the towers to collapse,” Mr Amuna said.

“When one collapses, it would pull down a number of towers and that means widespread power outages which could also spark a fire outbreak with devastating consequences,” he added.

He indicated that ponds had also been created between the transmission lines sited in the Atiwa Forest, Tafo and Akwatia, Bunso Junction and their surrounding areas.

Further challenges

Mr Amuna indicated that although the GRIDCo had engaged chiefs within the transmission zone, he noted that “these illegal miners are way beyond the control of chiefs.

“They carry the most sophisticated arms and are heavily connected that we sometimes have to go to the site with military patrol.”

GRIDCo, he said, had mobilised to conduct an occasional helicopter patrol along the lines and deploy bulldozers to create alternative routes to the towers and the sub-station to enable the company carry out the needed maintenance works.

He said GRIDCo could not tour all the transmission lines using helicopters because such an exercise was expensive.

Rather, the company had resorted to the use of a drone surveillance system to identify the areas of devastation to enable officials to begin to reclaim the catchment areas.

For his part, the Technical Engineer of GRIDCo, Mr Richard Ghanney, reiterated that the galamsey activities if not checked could prolong the response time to emergencies on the lines since accessibility to the facility had been cut off.

He said majority of the excavated pits left uncovered by the illegal miners posed a danger to the company’s maintenance team.

“We have had one of our technicians falling into one such pits and he sustained a permanent injury,” Mr Ghanney recalled.

He was, however, hopeful that the company would resume maintenance works at the sub-station

Source: DELLA RUSSEL OCLOO || Daily Graphic

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