General News of Wednesday, 4 June 2003
Mines Minister Mrs. Cecelia Bannerman on Tuesday urged the newly established Commercial Quarry Operators Association (COQOA) to take immediate steps to halt the practice of engaging children as labourers in their industry.
She further urged the COQOA executives to ensure that the labour laws of the country, especially those affecting their trade, are strictly observed.
In a speech read on her behalf by her deputy Adel-Majeed Haroun at the inauguration ceremony of COQOA in Accra, Mrs. Bannerman noted that it has been widely observed that many quarry operators in pursuit of their activities engage child labour which they consider to be easily available and cheap.
Sadly enough she said such child labour is procured with the knowledge, consent and active support of their parents who also see in the venture a veritable source of income for the family.
In addition, the Mines minister pointed that besides these contraventions of the law, most operators also fail, refuse or ignore the provision of protective clothing for their workers, thus exposing them to great danger at their work places.
To this end Mrs. Bannerman noted that the Mines department will soon intensify its inspection of all quarries in the region to ensure compliance of the laws and regulations in the quarry industry, adding that those that will be found to have infringed on the laws will be prosecuted before the law courts and their licence cancelled.
However she assured the young association of her government's preparedness to support organizations, individuals and other industries that have positioned themselves well enough to advance the cause of the socio-economic development in the country.
In his inaugural speech, the chairman of the association, Dr. Ebenezer Mireku, managing director of Peabo Quarry Limited at Sakyikrom, near Nsanwam said the need to take steps as a group has remained and has necessitated the formation of COQOA.
"We want to promote the development of commercial quarries so as to ensure the availability of high aggregates which conform to the standards of the Ghana Highway Authority and other allied bodies in the country." He said.
"We want to provide a united front in making recommendations to the relevant ministries, departments and agencies," he went on, "on ways of promoting the quarry industry and seeking solutions to problems and frustrations in the industry," he said.
Dr. Mireku named the exclusion from development contracts, payment of unauthorized dues to local authorities and encroachment of estate developers into their concession areas and the ensuing disputes as some of the problems affecting the industry.
He said these problems and others have led to the disappearances of major players in the quarry industry, adding that of the about 200 quarries registered with the Mines department not more than 25 are currently operating.
He therefore appealed to the government for some form of assistance to savage the industry from collapsing.