George Mireku Duker, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources responsible for Mines, has told Eastern Regional Security Council (REGSEC) and MMDAs that it has become imperative for his outfit to involve them and traditional leaders in the fight against illegal mining.
According to him, the ministry has not been able to realise the desired results from District Mining Committees inaugurated to ensure responsible mining in the country.
Duker submitted to the stakeholders that the onus lies not only on central government, but REGSEC and others to protect the waterbodies and help save Ghana’s future for posterity. “If you protect the rivers in your community, you are not doing it for government but for yourselves, your children and Ghana’s future and so let’s be emotional about this and solve this challenge dispassionately”
He employed the traditional leaders, particularly the overloads, to be strict and ensure that their sub-chiefs abide by the laws, insisting that those who do not go by the laws must be destooled if necessary, to encourage vigilance and constant monitoring on the rivers that runs through their Lands.
The Deputy Mines Minister also cautioned the Chiefs not to allow foreigners, particularly from the neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to invade their communities and mine in the rivers, adding that they should ensure that all who engage in mining in their communities exercise due diligence.
“Among all others ensure that concessions under your jurisdiction are a 100 meters area from the rivers just as the law stipulates,” he added.
Duker stressed emphatically that as the law allows for citizen arrests, government will soon ensure that onlookers in mining communities, regardless of positions will be arrested for sitting still and allowing such atrocities to happen under their watch.
He outlined a number of efforts government has put in place in the light of the combat saying “in the bid to end this canker, government has provided mercury-free mining equipment, 5 speed boats with navy personnel to constantly patrol the rivers, tracking devices with a control room to track excavators and other moving equipments are also in place, operation Halt II is also being strictly enforced, among many other strategies government is embarking on to rid the country of the canker”
He called for a unified and strengthened effort to address this challenge, stressing that political affiliations should not be considered in the efforts. “Let’s rid this combat of any political colorisation and protect our waterbodies with passion”
He then charged the MMDAs and security agencies to arrest miners or mining companies that take advantage of Community Mining Schemes (CMS) to mine in communities that have the CMS inaugurated and operationalised.
Addressing some concerns raised by some of the MMDAs and Chiefs, the Deputy Minister in charge of Mines assured the leaders that all their grievance have been duly noted and steps will be taken to mitigate them, while appealing for continued support and confidence in government.
The Deputy Minister commended the stakeholders for their efforts and support so far, noting that government will recognise and award those who engage in mining the right way. “Government is not against mining and I can’t emphasize this enough and because of this we have instituted the Small Scale Mining Awards to endorse and encourage those who mine the right way and this year, somewhere in November we will do this again”
George Mireku Duker however warned that government will not relent in its efforts to go against the perpetuators strongly “We are deeply saddened by this sudden surge but I must ensure you that government will go against these perpetuators strongly and without mercy”
The Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Acheampong, in his welcome address, explained the far reaching and devastating impact of illegal mining on the very lives of the citizens and on the socio-economic activities of the country.
Seth Acheampong told the gathering that if care is not taken, Ghana will soon lose it relevance in the field of trade as the use of mercury in the river bodies impacted on various foods, mentioning cocoa and as examples.
Most participants suggested that recalcitrants who were prosecuted be made to stay in jail without interference, which they believed would serve as a good deterrent to perpetuators.
The traditional leaders at the all important meeting also asked that the police and the security services support them in their efforts by guaranteeing their protection as most of them receive death threats from these illegal miners.