Feature Article of Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Columnist: Badu, K.
: Small scale mining is reserved for Ghanaians.
Indeed, “thousands” of Chinese immigrants are working in the small scale mining sector in Ghana, --it is no exaggeration. However, by law, only Ghanaians are allowed to obtain mining licenses for small-scale operations. Yet still, some Ghanaians are ignorant on this serious issue. And, disappointingly, the uncritical Ghanaians are supporting and shamefully transferring the mining concessions to their Chinese minions. Suffice it to say that it is unlawful for anybody to do that. In any case, the onus is on the regulatory bodies to ensure that the Ghanaians who are in receipt of the mining licences adhere to the laws which govern the sector.
To be quite honest, I take exception to a handful of commentators, who are of the view that some Ghanaians are engaging in small scale mining, so it does not matter if some illegal Chinese are getting involved as well. No, you are wrong in this instance. Though, you may have a valid point if you asseverate that some irresponsible Ghanaian small scale miners are culpable in the degradation of the environment. But, as the law stands at the moment, eligible Ghanaians are allowed to carry out small scale mining, provided that they can secure mining concessions. And, the law clearly excludes the participation of foreigners in the small scale mining operations. Thus, it is up to the authorities to ‘police the sector to ensure that the miners adhere to the rules and cease wrecking the environment gratuitously.
“Obviously, the soaring gold price, which has doubled to $1,650 in four years, has attracted Chinese workers and heavy equipment to the sector, drastically changing the scale and nature of operations.”
Well, the fact of the matter is the Chinese miners are being encouraged, and assisted by some greedy and obnoxious Ghanaians to ‘steal’ our natural resources. Without doubt, those nation wreckers are suffering from inferiority complex. Otherwise, how can they assist illegal immigrants to forcibly dig our natural resources, terrorise the natives and then wreck the environment? Think, for your actions will be consigned to posterity.
Let us also remind our Chiefs that they have rights over the lands, but they do not own the natural resources underneath the lands. Therefore, they have no right to sell the lands to illegal miners and assist them to forcibly take our natural resources. It is unlawful for any Chief to exercise such ultra vires. In any case, it is incumbent upon the government to repudiate such actions by the wayward and unpatriotic Chiefs.
“Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water-courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and an area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic and is vested in the President in trust for the people of Ghana”(Minerals Act 2006). Candid! We cannot and must not give in to some nation wreckers who are bent on assisting recalcitrant illegal miners to despoil our natural resources.
Let’s face it though, small-scale mining may have its benefits, and, it may be viable if it is properly regulated. And, it may generate employment in Ghana, but, the way it is being carried out at the moment, it does not look promising, it is simply ill-favoured.
It is fair to point out that the small scale mining sector has been characterised with multitudinous challenges, noticeably, environmental degradation, water pollution and the infiltration of foreigners into the sector. Needless to say, implementation of stringent measures will bring everlasting benefits to the country.
For example, in 2011, 30 percent of the country’s 3.6 million ounces of gold production came from small-scale mines, up from less than 25 percent in 2010, according to Ghana Chamber of Mines.
I strongly believe that enforcement of the laws on small-scale mining with a vivid distinction of what forms acceptable and unacceptable mining practices is the way forward. And at the same time, strengthening and resourcing regulatory bodies, such as the Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and other thematic institutions to improve the discharge of their responsibilities.
At the moment, it seems nobody is policing the small scale mining sector. It is apparent that the people who are in receipt of the small scale mining concessions are not privy to the laws which govern the sector. It is an eyesore, for, some people are not doing what is expected of them.
For example, even though, the small scale mining laws prohibit the use of large explosives, Chinese miners have been allowed to use unstructured methods, and at the same time supply large explosive, rock crushers and other machines to local miners.
Going forward, it is extremely important that Ghana Minerals Commission provides necessary education and training for the miners who are in receipt of the small scale mining licenses. The education and training must focus on the application of structured mining methods, the use of modern technology and safe mining practices. More importantly, the small scale miners must be tutored on the handling and disposal of the hazardous chemicals such as cyanide and mercury.
K. Badu, UK.