The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, says that the comment made by the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, that the jailing of the alleged Chinese illegal miner, Aisha Huang, was not important because it had no economic benefit for the state did not express the position of the government.
He also stressed that the deportation of the Chinese galamsey kingpin was not because of the Sinohydro Energy loan agreement between Ghana and China as was being speculated by some groups.
Aisha Huang and four other Chinese, who were arrested for their alleged involvement in galamsey, were deported after the state had filed a nolle prosequi.
At a recent Town Hall meeting, Mr Osafo-Maafo said jailing the Chinese illegal mining "queen" for engaging in illegal mining was not important as it was not going to solve Ghana's economic problems.
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In a video that went viral, Mr Osafo-Maafo was heard justifying the decision to deport Aisha Huang last December who was arraigned on May 9, 2017, for engaging in illegal small-scale mining at Bepotenten in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti Region.
A transcript of Mr Osafo-Maafo's comments read: “We have a very good relationship with China. Today, the main company that is helping develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro. It is a Chinese company. It is the one that is going to help process our bauxite and provide about $2 billion to us.
"So when there are these kind of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes. Putting that lady in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you happy or me happy, that's not important; the most important thing is that she has been deported from Ghana.
" . . I am saying that there are many other things beyond what we see in these matters and everybody is wide awake, the most important thing is that we have banned this, we have established regulations and we are protecting our environment. That is far more important than one Chinese woman who has been deported out of the country".
The comments by the Senior Minister generated a huge uproar, with the Minority in Parliament and other organisations calling for his head.
At a press briefing in Accra yesterday, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said Aisha Huang was not the only foreigner who was deported for engaging in galamsey so there was no point linking her deportation to the Sinohydro Energy loan agreement.
"Since the fight against illegal mining started, 194 foreigners from China, Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have been deported, so for someone to say that it is only one person who has been deported for the Sinohydro energy loan deal is neither here nor there,” the minister said.
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh observed that contrary to assertions by some groups that the country had lost the fight against galamsey, the country had made a lot of gains over the last two years.
"The results are there to show because we have seized more than 300 excavators, about 4,000 illegal miners were arrested and some were prosecuted, 194 foreign nationals were deported, the destruction to land and water resources reduced, while media reports on the menace have also reduced drastically although we still have some miscreants mining illegally in the forests," he said.
He also added that the 220 mining guards who were trained in October last year would be deployed immediately, while 280 others would be added on later this year.
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said the World Bank had approved $100 million to support Ghana to implement the Multi-sectorial Mining Integrated Programme (MMIP) meant to ensure sustainable small-scale mining and address the devastation caused by illegal mining popularly called galamsey.
He said the government was currently engaging other partners to raise an additional $100 million to implement the programme this year.
Responding to a question on the calls being made for the ICIM to be dissolved, he said it was not a good call and had dire consequences on the galamsey fight.
"The ICIM was not created in a vacuum.The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is a big sector, and that is why the government saw the need to set up the ICIM to support the illegal mining fight, so calling for it to be scrapped is not a good thing to do," he said.
On the issue of the corruption allegations against the Secretary to the Inter-ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (ICIM), Mr Charles Bissue, he said, the issue was still being investigated.
"The matter is still under investigation so until it is concluded, I may not be able to point a finger to a specific action that will be taken," he stressed.