The Minerals Commission is to re-classify the small-scale mining sector as part of efforts to address the challenges posed by illegal mining.
The re-classification, which would spell out the activities and licensing requirements for miners, would classify the mining sector into three categories, namely: artisanal, small-scale and medium-scale mining.
This was made known by the Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, Dr Tony Aubynn, yesterday, when he interacted with journalists in Accra.
He said the decision was considered after identifying some fundamental gaps in the current legislative framework and practices, which had made small-scale mining the preserve of Ghanaians above 18 years.
“The law had anticipated the use of simple implements but now we have operators using excavators and huge implements, which are contributing to the destruction of our river bodies and environment,” he said.
Following the re-classification, Dr Aubynn said, artisanal mining would be reserved for only Ghanaians with a five–year renewable licence that would permit them to operate on a land size of up to 12.5 acres.
“Artisanal mining will use mainly manual methods to mine alluvial and weathered hard rock material and a monthly levy will be collected,” he said.
According to Dr Tony Aubynn, though operators would be required to follow a set of environmental and safety measures, they would be exempted from major taxes.
Under the new policy, he said, Ghanaians would be given exclusive rights to operate small-scale mining with a land size of up to 25.2 acres, and would be permitted to use heavy mining equipment and explosives.
The small-scale operators, he said, would be strictly monitored by officials of the inspectorate division of the Minerals Commission.
Additionally, Dr Aubynn said the small-scale operators would be required to have at least one mining engineer and one geologist, and follow environmental and safety rules.
In the third category, he explained, foreigners who were currently barred from the sector would be allowed to go into joint ventures with Ghanaians, who would have 60 per cent ownership.
The land size for medium-scale mining, Dr Aubynn said, would be up to 50.4 acres and would have a 10-year licence, subject to the business plan or limited feasibility report and posting of a reclamation bond.
For the proposed framework to materialise, Dr Aubynn said the commission would embark on a country-wide stakeholder engagement in the third week of March 2016, to explain the framework and solicit views on the re-classification of the sector.
From April 2016, he said, the commission would collaborate with other institutions to undertake a country-wide registration of informal and illegal miners.
He said those registered would be organised into co-operatives and allocated sites to mine at a fee.
To track the use of heavy equipment for mining, Dr Aubynn said the commission was exploring the use of technology to register and track all earth-moving equipment in mining areas.
“We have a technology that would enable us to deactivate an excavator from our office just by a click of a bottom. We are not against the use of heavy equipment but it must be used in designated areas where it can be monitored,” he said.