The Coordinator of the Third World Network (TWN) Africa, Dr Yao Graham, has expressed disquiet over the importation of salt from Brazil to Ghana.
He said the development was stifling local production of the mineral and was a disincentive for employment creation in the country.
At a two-day national conference on artisanal small-scale mining in Ghana organised by the TWN-Africa, Dr Graham said the artisanal and small-scale salt production sector was one that lent itself better to employment creation.
That was because the sector depended on labour intensive efforts, skills and the knowledge of communities where salt was mined, he explained.
He said the government's intentions for the sector, however, did not seem to focus on the creation of employment opportunities for Ghanaians.
Rather, the government was seeking to package off the sector for foreign investment operations, denying citizens who had been in the sector for years their livelihoods and employment avenues.
"The problem of small-scale illegal mining is a challenge of livelihoods driving people to look for any opportunity," he said.
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Dr Graham said Ghanaians were not considered as viable investors in their own minerals by their government and indicted the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) for tailoring all its documents on investment opportunities in the mining sector to suit or attract foreign investors and not Ghanians.
Touching on the joint military/police taskforce, known as Operation Vanguard, which was set up to fight illegal mining, Dr Graham said all mining companies in Ghana had contracts with the military for the security of their concessions.
He wondered about the legality of such contracts and asked whether a Ghanaian could have the same opportunity of a military/police presence or protection for his or her property, the way foreign mining companies had it.
He, therefore, urged the Ministry of Defence to fully disclose the terms of such contracts.
He also called for a comprehensive policy on small-scale mining.
A lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Mr Alhassan Attah Quayson, said studies had shown that there was no institutional policy for the small-scale salt production sector.
He said his studies in some communities had even shown that planning officers of some assemblies had no idea about environmental impact statements.
Those documents, he said, were important for community engagements with the mining companies.
Mr Quayson, therefore, urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, lead a conversation with artisanal small-scale miners and work towards a comprehensive policy.
Use of force
A researcher with the Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), Mr Richard Ellimah, looked at how the small-scale mining sector in the country had faced periods of brutal force from joint police/military taskforces.
He said in the Fourth Republic, military taskforces had been used under former Presidents J.A. Kufuor and John Mahama and current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Mr Ellimah said most often, the Chamber of Mines began the campaign, touting the fact that the country's reputation as a foreign mining investment hub would be lost if illegal operations persisted.
But even with the clamp down, he said, illegal operations had not been eliminated because the people were not ready to be denied their livelihoods.
The Director of Operations at the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM), Mr Emmanuel Yerenkyi Antwi, said the failure of the government to regulate the sector, had led to the illegal operations in the sector.
Writer's E-mail: caroline.boateng@grap