Stakeholders discuss dev’t of mining sector
By Phyllis D. Osabutey
THE MINISTRY of Lands and Natural Resources in a bid to improve the mining sector has engaged stakeholders to discuss how to use the sector to promote sustainable development for the country.
This follows a maiden National Mining Forum (NMF) held in July this year, with the aim to strengthen stakeholder collaboration between regulators, industry, academia and civil society.
Among other things, the forum created a platform for stakeholders in mining to discuss issues that undermine the development of the industry.
Some of the problems identified included illegal mining and its related issues such as the management of Small Scale Mining (SSM) sub-sector, availability of land for licensing, and land degradation/pollution of water bodies.
Others included allegations of allocation of land for illegal mining by land owners and some traditional authorities, a lack of legislation on the Mineral Development Fund.
To, therefore, seek solutions to these problems, the Ministry organized a one-day workshop for stakeholders in Accra on Tuesday on the theme: “Strategic Meeting on Critical Issues Raised at the First National Mining Forum”.
Addressing the participants, the Minister responsible for the sector, Honourable Mike Allen Hammah, said the principal issue that was mentioned at the NMF was the illegal mining of gold and diamonds (galamsey).
According to him, “galamsey is of major concerns of Government”, particularly recent activities of foreigners who engage in illegal mining. This, he noted had taken a different dimension as these foreigners use weapons and security dogs to terrorize locals who dared to challenge them on their operations.
He lamented that these illegal miners now operated close to local communities in connivance with some chiefs, landlords, farmers and opinion leaders. He said some of the people known to be involved in the illegal mining business were Chinese, Indians, Russians, Spaniards and Burkinabes.
Hon. Hammah pointed out that though Ghana welcomes foreigners investing in the mining sector, “this must be done according to our country’s laws”, adding, “Foreigners are not granted small scale gold and diamond licenses.”
He further explained that foreigners were granted licenses to operate in the large and other areas but in a few recommended cases, “Mine Support Service licenses are granted to foreigners to operate.”
He expressed worry that an estimated 300 lives have been lost in illegal mining activities since 2011, stressing that “the current level of illegal small scale mining operations is has serious negative health, environmental and national security implications.”
It is in view of this, that the ministry was meeting stakeholders to discuss the way forward to improve the sector’s contribution to the economy of Ghana.
The Minister said other interventions in place to promote and manage SSM include the creation of District Mining Offices of the Minerals Commission to facilitate licensing and monitoring of SSM activities, establishment of a National Security Sub-Committee on Lands and Natural Resources, and the development of a strategic framework to address challenges in the SSM sub-sector.
Others include blocking out areas for SSM, financial assistance to SSM cooperatives, Alternative Livelihoods Projects (ALPS), and sensitization and education programmes.
He urged participants to diligently discuss further solutions that would inform the ministry on appropriate policy and legal regulatory reforms, and institutional capacity building needed to be undertaken in the mining sector.
On his part, the Board Chairman of the Minerals Commission, Mr. Fred Ohene-Kena said the primary and long term goal of any mineral resource was the development of policies.
This, he noted would support transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of the nation’s mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development that Ghana seeks to achieve.
According to him, the basic things needed to enable Ghana make significant strides in the mineral and mining sectors include adequate policy and regulatory framework for the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources available. “This will ensure a win-win benefit for the country and also investors”, he added.
He added that there was the need to develop radical implementation of the policies and regulatory framework. This ought to be done in collaboration with government and security agencies, the judiciary, civil service and other organizations traditional to exploitation of mineral resources in the country.
Also, he noted that improvement in good governance in the sector was key to attract and retain investors, saying, “Ghana is not performing badly in Africa but there is room for improvement.”
Thus, he entreated the participants to discuss the issues dispassionately to provide solution to address existing challenges.
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