The Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, has urged the government to put a one-year moratorium on small-scale mining activities to allow for the proper regulation and streamlining of the mining industry.
He said shutting down the industry, which is plagued with complexities and disorderliness, for a year would allow the authorities to properly investigate those who had legitimate licences for prospecting, reconnaissance, digging and mining.
In addition, such investigations would help identify unlicensed mining companies and individuals whose actions were contributing to the needless depletion of the forest cover, pollution of water bodies and destruction of farmlands, he said.
“As it is now, we do not know who has a licence for small-scale mining, who has a licence for large-scale mining and who has a middle-class mining licence. We must publish the names of persons and companies which have been licensed properly, so the public will know all these,” he said.
Speaking when the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, paid a courtesy call on him at the Ofori Panin Fie in Kyebi yesterday, Osagyefuo Ofori Panin said: “This one-year ban will also allow us to take time to properly resource the regulatory agencies and issue a warning to those who will not allow the regulations governing mining activities in the country to work.”
Mr Jinapor was at the palace to solicit the counsel and cooperation of the Okyenhene and his sub-chiefs in the fight against galamsey in the country.
The minister was accompanied by the Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Seth Kwame Acheampong; senior security officers and heads of departments and agencies involved in the fight against galamsey.
The Okyenhene’s call came a day after President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had renewed his commitment to fight illegal mining with a strong statement challenging those who were against the practice.
Describing galamsey as an “illegal criminal activity”, the Okyenhene said: “We cannot allow hunger today to destroy our God-given natural resources based on the perception that you have the power of vote and so if you are not allowed to mine, you will vote against the government.”
“The President says there is a difference between a vote and a voter — a vote is an event for people to cast their ballots, but voters’ future is more important, and this is what many do not understand,” he explained.
Respecting mining laws
According to the Okyenhene, while no government wished to see its people hungry, there were laid down regulations governing mining activities that must be respected.
He posed the questions: “Until when will we stop using the power of vote to threaten the government because we are hungry? And for how long can we destroy our water bodies?”
He advised those engaged in illegal mining to stay away from such activities, saying: “If a cocaine peddler and an armed robber are arrested, they are jailed and their stuff and weapons destroyed; this is the approach we have taken to burn down excavators used for galamsey.”
Reconsider Mining Act
Expressing disgust at even large-scale mining, the Okyenhene called for a reconsideration of the whole Mining and Minerals Act to address the ills associated with mining activities.
In his view, licensed large-scale mining had, over the years, not benefited all the mining communities in the country.
Drawing a comparison between mining communities in Ghana and those in South Africa, he explained how gold mining had contributed significantly to the development of Johannesburg, compared with mining towns in Ghana.
He made a comparison between the appalling differences in salaries paid to mine workers working with mining companies in South Africa and Ghana.
“Workers who go underground to mine gold in Johannesburg and Perth in Australia earn $100,000 in a year, while those in Obuasi, Tarkwa and Prestea who do the same job and produce the same gold, with the same risk, earn GH¢60,000 ($10,344) in a year,” he said, adding: “What a disparity!”
“We must address this labour exploitation, as it is long overdue,” he stated.
To allow the country to reap the maximum benefit from mining, Osagyefuo Ofori Panin emphasised the need for the state to support indigenous people with working capital to properly equip them for the industry.
“This is how we will, in the future, gain much from our natural resources and ensure that proceeds from mining are retained for the development of our nation,” he said.
With the government’s readiness to launch the Green Ghana Project on June 11, this year, the Okyenhene said those who engaged in illegal mining should be the ones who must be engaged to plant the five million trees.
He also called for an intensive reclamation effort to restore degraded mining communities in the country, saying: “Let us engage those who say they are hungry and, therefore, will be involved in galamsey to have another livelihood.”
Osagyefuo Ofori Panin said in order to make the fight against illegal mining successful, there was an urgent need to “separate policy makers from the regulators” to promote checks and balance.
“You cannot have the policy maker and the regulator one and the same. The Minerals Commission should be a separate entity from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, so that if the sector minister comes up with a policy, the Minerals Commission will have the audacity and courage to say ‘this is not good’,” he said.
He also called for chiefs to be made an integral part of the issuance of mining licences and permits to fortify the fight against illegal mining.
Earlier, Mr Jinapor had appealed to the Okyenhene and his sub-chiefs to lend their support to the government’s commitment to combat illegal mining.
“Your role in the fight against galamsey is indispensable,” he told the Okyenhene, whom he praised for championing the protection and preservation of the environment in Ghana.