Bernice Bessey .
An international development organisation, Solidaridad, has held a one-day workshop for the media on responsible practices in the small-scale mining sector. The workshop, which had presentations from industry players, served as a catalyst for the media personnel to monitor and evaluate the operations of local miners, as against best environmental practices and standards.
Facilitating the workshop last week in Accra, Nelson Ahedor, Assistant Manager, Small-Scale Mining, Minerals Commission, made a presentation on artisan and small-scale mining in Ghana, policies and regulatory framework. He said the Commission currently has nine district offices and hopes to scale it up to 18, alongside satellite offices, in order to increase visibility and accessibility.
According to him, the Commission issues licenses to prospective miners per the documents they present before it, which should meet all requirements within the 90 days stipulated period. He, however, blamed prospective miners for delaying the process with omissions and errors, and rather tend to fault the Commission and its staff.
Mr. Ahedor indicated that per the Commission’s regulations, any miner who operates beyond the given allocation has acted illegally, and his or her license could be revoked. Responding to the escalation of illegal mining activities that have destroyed virtually most water bodies in the country under their watch, he said: “There is no single illegal mining activity that the Minerals Commission has not reported.”
This was to say the Commission can’t be faulted with the menace or devastation that illegal mining or galamsey has caused the country. He also debunked the assertion that the traditional authorities and communities are not engaged before concessions are allotted to prospective miners, saying: “The chiefs are aware of the license. The perception that the commission officers sit in Accra to issue license is not true.”
He also disputed the assertion that small-scale miners don’t reclaim lands after use, adding some of the miners are responsible and do what was expected of them. To support mining communities with livelihood programmes, a total of 23,000 acres of palm plantations had been established in five communities to help them economically.
Furthermore, the Commission has made available capital and free seedlings to community members who have access to farmlands. To further enhance monitoring and inspection, the Commission has purchased drones for effective surveillance purposes.
Justine Shirley Seyiree Dzadzra, Chief Programme Officer, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on her part, said the whole country is mineralised, however, the agency is set in motion to move from guidelines to standards to make mining more progressive.
She said though there is no doubt that the mining sector can be capable of employing a chunk of Ghanaians, the destruction it causes to land and water bodies can’t be overlooked. EPA regulations allow mining activities 50-60 metres away from water basins, therefore, makes dredging water for minerals illegal, she added.
Other activities like heap leach, which she classified as illegal and blamed the Agency’s weak monitoring on limited staff, said: “Regulators are way below the operations.” The Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM), on its part, said within two years, they invested a total of GH¢6.5 million on communities’ support programmes as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The association pays GH¢80,000 as community entry fee to traditional authorities and spends Gh¢45 million on its weekly operations, therefore, it is not true that they are given licenses with the fore knowledge of the chiefs and people. They said an amount of GH¢1.6 million has been committed to purchasing software to enhance monitoring, regulations and land use.
They explained artisanal mining as the use of simple tools in mining, and small-scale mining as the use complex modern technology in mining. Yaw Britwum Opoku from Solidaridad said the organisation is helping in promoting responsible practices in the mining sector.
So far it has helped 23 mining companies to uphold health and safety standards, change the culture practices of the mine workers, and how to be responsible to the environment.