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The causes of disputes in salt producing communities that may lead to conflicts and violence




Resources, over the years, have been sources of conflict. There have been conflicts over gold, diamonds, oil reserves, farm lands, access to trade routes, the Sea and salt.

Salt was important as the giver of taste in foods, means of exchange, store of value, symbol of peace, and an export and import commodity.

Salt production has been a source of conflict between and among individuals and people.

Why would people have disputes over salt?

There may be several reasons why people would have disputes over salt. Salt disputes have ranged between personal differences over ownership of a heap of salt in a small community to full blown fights resulting in the use of clubs and firearms and the loss of lives.

Reasons for violence in salt mining areas


Among the coastal salt mining areas near the Keta Lagoon, ownership of salt pits was not well defined. When the salt crystals form, those who go to gather and heap, lay claim to what they heaped by demarcating with landmarks.

It so happens that some community members steal heaped salt belonging to others. If the thief is found out, he or she incurred the displeasure of the owner. Such situations led to individual or even family disputes. However, this scenario is not as great an issue as other reasons for conflicts in salt mining areas.

Desire to control coastal territories and trade with Europeans at the coast.

In the colonial era, trade routes had long been established to the north and to the north of Ashanti territories. To the north, Ashanti merchants had been exchanging kola nuts and other items for salt. In the southern trade routes, they exchanged gold, ivory, rubber, slaves etc., for firearms, gun powder, drinks and salt.

To gain greater control of the trade at the coast, the Ashantis laid a claim to the coast line controlled by the Fantes. The then British Commander, Sir Charles MacCarthy, would tolerate no such nonsense. He marched into Kumasi, in 1823, and attacked the Ashantis. In the battle, his troops were defeated. He himself beheaded and his head publicly displayed.

Having demystified the strength of the British army, the Ashantis marched to the coast, engaged the British army and defeated them.

It is not clear if the desire to control the trade at the coast was motivated by the need for salt or the control of the same. However, it can infer from the events leading to the battle that control of trade, at the coast, in various commodities, including salt, may have led to the battle.

Government preference for commercial salt mining

Successive governments have over the years opted for industrial salt mining over small-scale ones and that has also been a source of conflict. Governments have licensed or leased concessions to limited liability companies to mine for salt in hitherto, traditionally owned stool lands. For example, in 1971, the then military junta, granted a long-term lease to Vacuum Salt Limited to mine a portion of the Songhor Lagoon covering some 12428 acres. Again, in 2015, Kensington Salt Industries Limited, now Seven Seas Salt Limited, was given a 7000 acre concession, about 97% of the area, to mine in the Keta Lagoon. Also, in 2020, Electrochem Ghana Limited received a 15year mining lease, ratified by the parliament of Ghana to mine salt in the Songhor Lagoon. The concession covered 39,141.5 acres.

This penchant for giving concessions for commercial salt mining has also been a major contribution to conflicts in salt mining areas. The interests of these companies are sometimes in contrast to the local people among whom the concessions are.

Indigenes feel deprived of their God-given resource

The local people consider natural resources in their area God-given. Any attempt to take it away from them and given out to commercial entities is resisted fiercely. In the Ada Songhor lagoon, for example, salt is seen as given to the town by God and therefore, a priest was ordained to oversee the resource. The Libi Wornor (Salt Priest) is the spiritual head of the Songhor Lagoon. The locals consider the lagoon as a deity. In a strict traditional sense, the Salt Priest is the owner of the salt in the Songhor Lagoon. He holds it in trust for the people. When Seven Seas Salt Limited, received 97% of the Keta Lagoon in a concession given to it by the government of the day, only a paltry 3% was left for them, according to

Nobody would allow another to take away something that belongs to him. The taking over of salt resources in salt producing areas through concessions given by governments has led to resistance leading to persistent conflicts. In May, 1985, for example, leaders of the Ada Traditional Area clashed with Vacuum Salt Limited and this resulted in the death of one Margret Kuwornu. She was pregnant at the time of her death. A statue stands in her honour today in their community. The, in August, 2017, reported that demonstrations in March, 2017 over the activities of Seven Seas Salt Mining Limited in Adina in the Ketu South district of the Volta Region, resulted in one death.

In August, 2017, the reported demonstrations over the activities of Seven Seas Salt Mining Limited in Adina in the Ketu South district of the Volta Region, which resulted in one death.

Loss of traditional a source of income

For the local people in salt mining communities, salt is considered a traditional source of income. About fifty communities have been mining salt in the Songhor Lagoon, for instance, for centuries. Income from salt mining and selling has helped the locals to put food on the table for their families, to train their children in school and in other trades, and to acquire personal properties. The leasing of large acres of traditional salt mining areas to commercial entities has led to the loss of these traditional sources of income. According to an August, 2022 Newsletter by the Ada Songhor Lagoon Association, 35,000 Sea salt producers have been deprived of their source of livelihood by the lease given to Electrochem Ghana Limited. If people are pushed to the wall in this manner, there is bound to be resistance and this is another reason for conflict over salt. 

Companies not operating within the lease agreements signed with the government

The commercial companies licensed to produce salt sometimes go outside the mandate given to them by government Seven Seas Company, for example, was licensed to mine salt using an agreed method, but they have now been accused of mining brine, something they were not licensed to engage in. The local people have also accused the company of pumping water from under the ground, thus depriving them of the needed water to aid crop cultivation.

Mistrust of community leaders

At the 7th Annual General Meeting of the Elmina Salt Industry in the Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abrem municipality of the Central Region in September, 2011, a report captured the Vice Board Chairman, Nana Kodwo Eduakwa V appealing to the residents of Elmina not to accuse the Paramount Chief of misappropriating the profits of the Elmina Salt Industry. In the report, there was no direct reference to anyone accusing the Paramount Chief of misappropriation, but that admonition from the Vice Board Chair signaled the fact that some of the local people did not trust the traditional leadership and suspected him of tampering with proceeds from royalties from salt. Mistrust is generated when the locals feel that their leaders are in cahoots with people to exploit their resources.

Concessionaires not adhering to the terms of their concession

In December, 2015, reported that Seven Seas Salt Limited, was granted a concession (7000 acres of the Keta Lagoon) to mine salt. The agreement with the Minerals Commission of Ghana was for the company to use Sea brine to produce salt. However, the company was now using surface water and underground pools instead. The company is also accused of operating in areas not originally part of their original concession, encroaching on lands belonging to other communities. There is much mistrust between the two parties as a result. These are recipes for conflict.


The reasons for conflicts in salt mining communities are many. These may not be all but it clearly points to the fact that resource wars are lurking in the dark if these differences are not amicably resolved by the parties involved.

Also read The importance salt to the economy of pre-colonial Ghana

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