The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is decentralising plans to deal comprehensively with the menace of illegal mining.
In line with that, it has urged all regional ministers to lead the crusade and play visible key roles in the fight against the canker.
“Although the fight is coordinated nationally, regional ministers are expected to lead the charge in the regions as heads of regional security councils (REGSECs) to implement the plans,” the sector Minister, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, has stated.
Consequently, the ministry has handed over a list of all the companies holding prospecting and / or recognisance licences and mineral rights in forest reserves to the regional ministers.
The list, according to Mr Jinapor, was to arm the representatives of the President at the regional level with adequate information on the fight against illegal mining.
Mr Jinapor stated this in his opening comments during a closed-door meeting among the 16 regional ministers, selected key ministers and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House to discuss the plans being rolled out to deal with the challenge.
“We are now at the crossroads. We have had a successful consultative dialogue and put in arrangements to regulate small-scale mining, and the President thought it important to invite regional ministers and key sector ministers for a discussion on how we move forward from here,” he said.
Mr Jinapor said his ministry was decentralising the security component of the galamsey fight, for which reason it was important to re-emphasise the role and involvement of the REGSEC.
"What this means, in effect, is that unlike previously when the Lands Ministry controlled everything from Accra, the regional ministers, who are the heads of the REGSECs, will take charge of the security operations to weed out galamsey operators," he said.
He added that the decentralised galamsey fight called for all stakeholders, including chiefs, municipal and district chief executives (MDCEs) and residents of mining communities, to play their part to safeguard the environment from further destruction.
Mr Jinapor noted that under the instructions of the President, the ministry issued policy directives in respect of forest reserves and there had been a bit of confusion about them.
He said the first directive was that moving forward, the Forestry Commission (FC) should not issue forest entry permits for purposes of mining in forest reserves, and explained that the process was such that the final permit one required in order to be able to mine in a forest reserve was an entry permit.
“The President got us to issue that instruction, which says that no more issuance of forest entry permits, and so from two weeks ago there cannot be fresh mining in forest reserves. If you had a mining lease and a forest entry permit before this instruction was given, you are not affected,” he noted.
The minister explained that although the directive did not take retrospective effect, there was no longer the opportunity to undertake that exercise, saying:
“From now onwards, if one gets a mining lease and goes to the Forestry Commission, the door is shut.”
He stated that under the second directive, the President took the view that “people come for prospecting, recognisance and / or exploration licences under the pretext that they want to go and explore for gold and yet proceed to mine”.
“Therefore, he got us to issue instructions which say from Friday, April 30, 2021, no prospecting, recognisance and / or exploration can take place in a forest reserve. So you cannot engage in prospecting, exploration and recognisance. Whether you have a licence or not, you are to cease,” he explained.
Restoring water bodies
Meanwhile, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr Kwaku Afriyie, has hinted of plans to de-silt and restore the water bodies destroyed by illegal mining to their original forms.
He said the plans would be rolled out after the government had exhaustively dealt with the political and social menace of galamsey.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Dr Afriyie explained that the recent national dialogue on illegal mining was one of the ways in which the government was dealing with the political and social consequences of illegal mining.
He said once that aspect had been well established, MESTI would then task the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to de-silt and restore the polluted water bodies.
Although the minister did not say when the de-silting would begin, he was confident that his outfit would partner the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry to restore destroyed water bodies to their natural forms.
“We will conserve the flora and fauna of our water bodies,” he said.
Execute mandate with confidence
Dr Afriyie said he had tasked the EPA and all agencies under his ministry to ensure that they executed their mandate without fear or favour.
He said it was due to the lack of enforcement of the relevant laws that the country was faced with the challenges of galamsey and its social and political consequences.
“We have all the laws, but enforcement is the problem, so I have asked the EPA and all agencies to enforce the laws, irrespective of the persons involved,” he said.