Corrupt licensing and regulatory bodies blamed for illegal mining

Picture shows Edward Kwasi Akuoko, Director: Policy & Research at ASMAN
Picture shows Edward Kwasi Akuoko, Director: Policy & Research at ASMAN

Illegal and small scale miners within the country?s mining industry have accused mining licensing and regulatory bodies of being those breeding the increasing illegal mining activities in the country which have over the years cost the economy significantly.

Picture shows Edward Kwasi Akuoko, Director: Policy & Research at ASMAN
Picture shows Edward Kwasi Akuoko, Director: Policy & Research at ASMAN

This has been revealed by a study undertaken by the Economy Times with support from the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) to undercover how loose regulation of mining in the country is contributing negatively to the economy and environmental sustainability.

In order to conduct the study the Economy Times reporter lived among the miners in selected mining communities to acquaint himself with the situation as to how miners go about their work, whether their activities conform with the law and policies on mining, and what technical assistance or services the regulatory bodies give to them throughout the entire chain of activities. some of the players in the industry, whom the Economy Times reporter spoke to while on the field, noted that, Small Scale Mining activities and the way they work cannot help in the development of the country considering the menace caused to the environment by their activities.

?I do not blame the miners, because speaking from experience I know the miners will wish to do the right thing as well as safeguard the environment but the licensing and regulatory regimes are not functioning proper and have been bedeviled with corruption.? Sumaila Seidu, a 35 year old gold dealer at Osino had said.

He explained that, it is frustrating and indeed almost impossible for the poor to get a license for a concession and for that matter they cannot access the services and advice of regulatory bodies to help them do the right thing. These are the causes of increasing illegal mining in the country.

He suggested that, the licensing and regulatory bodies normalized the process and requirement of giving licenses and mining permits to the people? devoid of frustration, deliberate delays which in turn breed corruption and dubious ways of awarding mine concessions to those who have the money and can pay ?big bribes?. Over years, thousands of people including foreigners have taken to illegal mining in the country a situation experts say has a negative impact on registered miners.

Despite the disparities in knowledge of the distinction between small scale mining and illegal mining, small scale mining has become synonymous with ?galamsey? (artisanal gold mining in Ghana) due to the way they both go about with their work.? ?Galamsey? is the term used to describe the aspect of mining that is not licensed, regulated or supervised by any authority in Ghana.

This study which was conducted in the Denkyira, Nsutam and Osino townships where there are heavy presences of small scale miners. ??A scan through the communities and the environments of these areas, showed that the Offin and Birem rivers, the main sources of water for household chores and other activities by the inhabitants, which flow through the areas, are heavily polluted through the activities of both small scale and galamsey gold miners. Some mining sites have also turned into ?deserts? as the vegetation cover in those areas has been removed.? In Osino, most of the youth are at home untrained in any kind of vocation or higher education and unemployed; they therefore do not have any better option than to result to ?galamseying? even if at risk to their lives.

These comes to establish the fact that, ?galamsey? can never be eradicated completely so the government has the responsibility to ensure that the licensing regime becomes easier and effectively understandable to all so that illegal miners can start doing the right thing as they wish to do to save the environment and contribute to the development of the country at large.

?The effects of the mining on the environment today will be minimized if people (miners) start to do the right thing, based on responsible regulation and supervision?Seidu asserted.

Sumaila Seidu had warned that, the lands allocated to the large-scale mining companies are mostly too big such that, the indigenes sometimes do not any good concessions anymore to also work on to look for economic sustenance and that why the illegal miners sometimes encroach into the concessions of the large mining companies. ?The concession allocation and licensing should be done in such a way that, the indigenes that are interested in mining and are ready to pass through the necessary process to get licenses and permits to mine also gets portions of the already prospected good concessions.?

He alluded to the fact that, when the country is indebted, the government allocates the debt to all people in the country to pay through taxes and other levies, so in the same way the government must allocate the means of getting economic sustenance fairly and equitably.?

Dying in the pit

Also in the field, the death of his brother from illegal mining is not deterring Kwaku Manu, a 28 year old native of Denkyira from embarking on the same path.? Faced with abject poverty and the responsibility to feed his family and send his little brother to school, Kwaku Manu has no option than to go underground without any protective gear to mine gold despite the dangers associated with it.

This same job led to the death of his brother, Isaac Manu, a few months ago from a collapsed pit which killed 25 people, according to police report. In an interview with Kwaku Manu, he explained that he has to ignore these dangers and enter the pit on a daily basis just to make enough money to take care of his family. ?I need money to feed my two children, my late brother?s son and my wife.? Manu prayed for a different source of livelihood but ?in this part of the country it is only galamsey that pays,? he lamented.? Kwaku Manu and his colleagues are calling for proper regulation of the sector. This they believe would force their employers to provide them with protective gear as well as observe other safety precautions.

Government?s intervention needed

A 30 years old mason, King David, now a small scale miner at Akyem Nsutam, but who hails from Koforidua, and is married with three children had told the Economy Times reporter in an interview that,? the nature in which we operate is not the best, we know that, but, it is all because the regulatory bodies do not help us in terms of education on proper means and method of mining and sometimes we lack technical assistance in terms of covering up the mine pits and also reclaiming the land after work?.

Again, making the situation worse, he said is the introduction of a government taskforce which is causing more harm than good to the environment and the workers. Scared miners upon hearing that the taskforce is coming start to run thereby abandoning the pits uncovered even partially, while others fall into pits in the process of running. ?A number of my friends have died through this situation.? He laments.

King David wants the government to intervene to make sure that ?regulatory bodies come to our aid; we are all Ghanaians looking for work to do so that we can pay taxes to help develop the country.?? Also, the taskforce activities should not become harassment to the people even those doing the right thing somehow in one way or the other.

He noted that, the youth population in Ghana are the majority and looking at the situation of lack of job opportunities there is nothing better than robbery to do other than to be involved in mining either illegal or legal.? ?With the current high cost of schooling and high cost of living this compels some of us to risk our lives. Sometimes sales are not good which affects our economic power. Over the past months most mine workers earn less than GHc500 a month.?

The government must intervene to help the small scale miners and even those doing ?galamsey? by grouping us, registering and regulating our activities in conformity with the laws of mining in the country to make the work safer for people and the environment.? These could help create more formal and decent jobs for the unemployed which will increase the number of direct taxpayers in the country, he said.

King David lamented that ?sometimes when we think about the economic security of our future it becomes sad. We do not have any form of social security for our future and our dependents when we are aged. We believe that, if the government intervenes and regulates our activities properly to formalize the small scale mining and ?galamsey? operations, we would be having some form of social security for our future.?

?Ghana should regulate operations of artisanal miners because they have a potential to contribute immensely to the country’s economy,? Seth Klaye, Executive Director of the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC), told The Africa Report in an interview last year.

Klaye believes that with proper monitoring the industry could prove to be a big-money spinner for Ghana. He urged the government to strengthen laws to protect the environment.

?The country could look to Brazil as an example of how small scale mining could be properly managed if the necessary checks and balances were put in place. What has to be rehabilitated is rehabilitated and it is done under strict supervision,” he said, referring to land damaged by illegal mining activities.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusa Fuseni, has admitted knowledge of the activities of the illegal miners. He however noted that the government?s established taskforce will check and arrest the illegal miners despite their cries and plays.

Small scale gold mining in Ghana has a long history. It has existed as far back as the eighth century as a household economic activity. It was legalised recently when the Small Scale Mining Law (PNDCL 218) 1989 was passed and public policies were formulated to support the implementation of the law. From then, the industry has become a major contributor to the total quantity of gold produced in Ghana. The industry is a major employer of the rural labour force. Despite these contributions, the industry has several negative effects on the environment.

Small-scale mining is essentially an artisanal or small industrial form of raw mineral extraction. In Ghana, there are about 300 registered small-scale mining groups and they constitute a major source of employment especially for small-scale gold and diamond miners, and contribute some foreign exchange to Ghana?s economy. However, there are a lot more of such groups that are not registered, and cannot access any meaningful form of support to boost their business. The Mining industry of Ghana accounts for 5% of the country’s GDP and minerals make up 37% of total exports, of which gold contributes over 90% of the total.

The importance of small scale mining is steadily growing from statistics available. In 2000 it only contributed to 9 percent of gold production ? by 2010 that figure had grown to 23 percent. Indeed, in 2010 the ASM sector produced US$800 million worth of a gold and US$11.3 million worth of diamonds. As of 2009 over one million people were directly dependent upon ASM for their livelihoods in Ghana.

Source: Adnan A. Mohammed.

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