The Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Mines, Mr George Mireku Duker, has asked metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to take urgent steps to protect quarry concessions within their jurisdictions from encroachment.
He said quarries were crucial for national development as they provided materials for constructing roads and other key infrastructure projects.
"It is important for all of us to know that to a large extent, our survival and well-being depends on quarrey materials. If you want to build a house, you need stones; if you want to construct roads or bridges, you need the quarries; and every project we want to undertake depend on quarrey materials. Therefore, we must protect this natural resource to get the best use out of it," he said.
Mr Duker made that call at a meeting with the northern sector chapter of the Commercial Quarry Operators Association of Ghana (COQOA) at Afigya Kwabre South District in the Ashanti Region today (March 10).
He observed that just like gold and other minerals, stones were important natural resources that ought to be preserved for the economic value.
The deputy minister said when quarry concessions were properly protected from encroachment, it would create more employment opportunities for people.
He stressed that given the dangerous nature of explosives used for quarrying, it was important for the MMDAs and other stakeholders to ensure that residential areas were not closer to the quarrey concessions.
"This is crucial because if these explosives are used and there are houses closer by, it is obvious that human lives will be affected," he said.
Mr Duker also said it was the responsibility of the MMDAs to ensure the removal of illegal structures from quarrey zones to prevent accidents.
To prevent encroachment activities on quarries, he called on COQOA and MMDAs to engage chiefs and traditional authorities on the allocation of lands for quarry operations.
Mr Duker said such collaboration would ensure proper demarcation of concessions.
For his part, the District Chief Executive (DCE) of the Afigya Kwabre South, Mr Christian Adu Poku, said the assembly had been fighting encroachment activities on designated quarrey zones in the area despite challenges with enforcement.
He said the assembly established a quarry fund to undertake development projects such as schools, health facilities and provide support to community members.
The Vice-Chairman of the COQOA, Mr Adu Tutu Gyamfi, expressed concern about growing incidence of encroachment in quarry concessions.
He said the activities of the encroachers had negatively affected the fortunes of the quarry sector and forced some operators to fold up their businesses.
He called for the prosecution of persons who engaged in the practice to deter others.
The quarry sector is a multimillion industry with the capacity to create thousands of jobs along the value chain.
Key infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals, bridges, roads, ports, and houses owe their existence to that sector.
It is estimated that about 60 tonnes of granite is required to construct one housing unit. This means that 120 million tonens of aggregate is needed to meet the construction needs of the two million housing units.
There are competing needs for granite for other infrastructure projects means that the country needs a robust quarry sector that will be on its feet to deliver the granite that is needed to support these infrastructure projects.
However, the quarry sector has been faced with the challenge of encroachment by estate developers.
The situation has compelled many of the operators to fold up while die-hard ones are barely a pale shadow of themselves.
For instance, the 2018 Ghana Industry report showed that out of the 146 registered concessions for quarry operations, less than 60 of them were in operation. It added that even with those quarries that were operational, none produced beyond 50 per cent of their respective rated capacities.
The figures also showed that only about 20 per cent of the country’s capacity, translating into seven million tonnes of granite, was produced annually.