Govt must work on lifting ban on small-scale mining — Artisanal mining and sourcing expert

BY: Victor Kwawukume
Ms Cristina M. Villegas (middle) flanked by the US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Jackson (left), and Executive Director of ABANTU, Ms Rose Mensah Kutin, at the forum
Ms Cristina M. Villegas (middle) flanked by the US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Jackson (left), and Executive Director of ABANTU, Ms Rose Mensah Kutin, at the forum

Artisanal Mining and Sourcing Expert, Ms Cristina M. Villegas, has stressed the need for the government to work on lifting the ban on small-scale mining.

According to her, the ban, though aimed at fighting illegal mining, was equally hurting legal miners and putting millions of jobs and significant investments at risk.

She has also urged large-scale mining companies to not only share concessions and facilities, but also help artisanal mining (ASM) companies access new and better markets.

Ms Villegas made these remarks when she addressed a policy forum hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on the theme: “Towards Reforming and Restructuring Ghana’s Small-Scale Mining Sector: Lessons and Best Practices to Shape Policy Formulation.”

Ms Villegas, who doubles as the Director of Mining at Pact, spoke on the topic “Moving beyond the ban: Inspiration for Ghana”.

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Key stakeholders

The discussions were lively and engaging, and brought together key stakeholders including key government officials, academics, representatives of the mining society, members of the diplomatic corps and the media.

Among the dignitaries were Mr Sam Okudzeto, a Member of the Council of State; Mr John Osei Frimpong, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Abirem Constituency in the Eastern Region; Mr Robert Kwasi Amoah the Member of Parliament (MP) for Achiase in the Eastern Region and Dr Emmanuel Marfo, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Oforikrom Constituency in the Ashanti Region.

Others were Nii Kpobi Tettey Tsuru III (La Mantse), Venerable Dr Joseph Lamptey (Anglican Church), Chief Baba Issa (Association of Zongo Chiefs) and C/Supt Abraham Acquaye (representative of the IGP).

Embracing modern mining trends

Ms Villegas also threw light on trends in environmental management, encouraging ASM companies to use free and existing educational materials to learn how to rehabilitate their lands in a feasible way.

She touched on current trends in Artisanal Mining (ASM) and how they could serve as possible inspiration in the development of Ghana’s ASM sector.

According to her, when well executed, the current measures would ensure that the sector developed its fullest potential, with regard to resource efficiency, value addition, job preservation and expansion and development benefits.

She also made some recommendations on ways forward regarding the ban on small-scale mining and its effects on legal mining operators.

Emerging markets and opportunities

For her, there was an emerging market opportunities for artisanal and small-scale miners through collaboration with assurance programmess such as Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold.

Therefore, she stressed that understanding and documenting the provenance of gold would soon be a condition precedent to accessing large markets.

She also suggested the use of CRAFT (Code of Risk Mitigation for ASM engaging in Formal Trade), to ensure that the mining sector was meeting the global minimum technical standard.

In her view, by working to ensure that the ASM was ethically responsible, the Ghanaian mining sector would reach more opportunities and avoid being shut out of certain world markets.