After almost two years of efforts to regularise and streamline activities of the small-scale mining sector, the ban on small-scale mining has been lifted for mining companies that have been successfully vetted and their concessions validated by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM).
However, the moratorium still remains in place for other small-scale mining companies that are yet to go through the validation process by the committee.
Announcing the lifting of the ban in Accra on Friday, the Chairman of the IMCIM and Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said all measures that had been put in place to check illegal mining activities were still in force to weed out miscreants in the system.
“I want to emphasise here that the lifting of the ban does not mean that illegal miners can go back to work because galamsey is still illegal. It does not mean that foreigners who do not have the right to participate in small-scale mining can get back to work. It does not also mean that security operatives who were monitoring mining concessions will be disengaged.
What the lifting of the ban means is that only mining companies with valid permits and licences from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Minerals Commission, and the Water Resource Commission (WRC), which also have tax identification numbers (TIN), licensed mining equipment and whose concessions have been vetted can go back to work,” he stressed.
He said the list of all companies that had been validated to return to small-scale mining would be published in the electronic and print media on Monday, December 17.
He said notices on companies that had been validated to start work would also be posted at the metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies (MMDAs).
The event to lift the ban was attended by representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners (GNASSM), Media Coalition Against Galamsey and other stakeholders in the mining sector.
Notable figures at the event included the Ministers of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah; Sanitation and Water Resources, Ms Cecilia Dapaah; and Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama.
Others were the two Deputy Ministers of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio and Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi.
Also present were the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah; the Secretary of the Vetting Committee of IMCIM, Mr Charles Bissue, and the convener of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey.
As part of the new reforms to sanitise the mining sector, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said all small-scale mining companies were required to have at least one skilled person in sustainable mining before they would be allowed to operate.
He said there was collaboration between the IMCIM and the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to electronically tag all machines before the companies were allowed to use them at their concessions.
“Mining equipment such as excavators, bulldozers that have not been licensed and tagged with electronic devices by the DVLA will not be permitted for small-scale mining,” he said.
Additionally, he warned that the new reforms placed a ban on the fabrication, transportation and use of dredging equipment for use in water bodies, adding that offenders would be ruthlessly dealt with according to the law.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said 140 personnel under the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) had been trained in drone technology and basic military training and would be stationed in mining districts to monitor activities in mining concessions.
He added that 72 ad hoc mining sub-committees had also been constituted at MMDAs to strengthen monitoring of artisanal mining, educate small-scale miners, and also help to manage relationships between artisanal miners and big mining companies.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng revealed that about 2.4 million hectares of the country’s land surface had been degraded through illegal mining and needed to be reclaimed.
He said it would cost the nation or the taxpayer about $29 billion to reclaim the degraded land because every hectare would cost $12,000 to reclaim.
He added that the forest cover of the country had also reduced from 8.8 million hectares before independence to a low of about 1.9 million.
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For his part, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah warned that locals who allowed foreigners to ride on their backs to engage in illegal mining would be clamped down and appropriate sanctions applied to deter them from that act.
“The government is asking all of us to rise up and resist those who are destroying the resources of this country. History and posterity will judge all of us harshly if we fail to protect our land and water resources for the next generations,” he stressed.
He commended the media for the important role it played in the fight against illegal mining and asked for renewed commitment to ensure that the new reforms were successfully implemented.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah observed that the time had come for all stakeholders, including MMDCEs, to come together and sanitise the mining sector.
The government imposed a six-month ban on all forms of small-scale mining in April, 2017, following the devastative effects of illegal mining on the country’s land and water resources.
That was followed by the setting up of a 10-member IMCIM by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to clamp down on the activities of the illegal miners, regularise small-scale mining and also put in place reforms to ensure sustainable mining.
The stakeholder ministries were the ministries of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Lands and Natural Resources, Defence, Interior, Sanitation and Water Resources; Local Government and Rural Development and Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs.
A joint police-military task force dubbed “Operation Vanguard,” was also deployed on August 1, 2017 to clamp down on illegal mining activities.
The ban, which was expected to be lifted by the end of October, 2017, suffered series of extensions because the government maintained that the ban would not be lifted until such a time that water and land resources that had been degraded regained their health.
A multi-sectoral mining integrated policy (MMIP) was formulated by the IMCIM with a comprehensive road map towards the lifting of the ban.
As part of the road map, the IMCIM set up a subcommittee to vet all small-scale mining companies to ensure that they had valid registration documents, tax identification numbers (TINs), and the approval of the documentations on their concessions.
After scrutinising the details of some 1,350 small-scale mining companies, the IMCIM validated documents of about 900 of those companies.