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Regional News of Monday, 18 February 2008

Source: GNA

Politicians must stop support for galamsey operators

Accra, Feb. 18, GNA- A group of participants at the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) on Monday in Accra asked politicians to refrain from giving tacit support to "galamsey" (artisanal) miners to ensure that law and order prevailed in mining areas and for government to earn taxes due her.

At an ICMM workshop on Resource Edowment Initiative - Phase III on mining and development the observed that those who were actively engaged in the galamasey operations were between 16 and 45 years and were at the voting age and thus when such people strayed into the concessions of mining companies disciplining them became a problem because of political power play of law enforcement. Sometimes while members of one political party were operating in another area and seeing that the law could not be enforced, another group belonging to another political party also joined them or began to operate from an area nearby.

Professor Mireku Gyimah, Vice Chancellor, University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa and Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Economic Consultant, leading a group discussion on problems arising out of Galamsey operations and compensation of resettled communities as a source of concern to both mining companies and the communities said, a three pronged approach involving the government, mining companies and the communities should be adopted with factors of conflict resolution mechanisms. The group said some members of mining companies and some civil society groups claimed that communities were inadequately compensated for land acquired by mining companies.

A common claim was also that the communities were compensated only for the value of the land and not the value of the economic activities produced on land.

The group brainstorming on solutions to the challenges facing the mining industry called for a review of the mining law, involvement of district assemblies, the farmers and possibly civil society organisations during negotiations and the streamlining the payment processes to landowners.

Dr Thompson intimated that the overall improvement of the national economy should descend to the grassroots to ensure that effective decentralisation was taking place to arrest influx of migrant labours to the mining areas as well as influencing the livelihood of those mining communities

Mrs Esther Obeng Dapaah, Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines in a speech read for her said government had provided stable conditions to attract Foreign Direct Investment into the mining sector, saying gold production of 2.24 million ounces in 2006 was 11 per cent higher than that of 2005 largely on account of two new mines coming on stream. She said the average gold price in 2006 was 603 dollars per ounce, so revenue from gold exports rose by 46 per cent of 1,327 million pounds, adding "Much higher prices since then have boosted the revenues even more".

She noted that government recognised this considerable benefits and it was therefore imperative to work hard to ensure that local communities likewise saw benefits from mining. Mrs. Dapaah also urged donor communities, corporate bodies, municipal and district assemblies to work closely together to raise the living standards of the people.

" Our new efforts on fiscal decentralisation are important in this context and may be used to benefit mining districts", she added. Ms. Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Office of Ghana Chamber of Mines said with the cooperation of the mines, Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Policy (SALP) was developed to encourage transparency and active participation of local communities and stakeholders in aspects of the policy.

"To ensure the sustainability of SALPs, projects are carefully selected to ensure that they are demand-driven, profit-oriented and have a clear alignment towards poverty alleviation", she said. The Chamber continued to place premium on acquisition of social licence and development of social partners in community affairs and that Community Consultative Committees have also been instituted to discuss community programmes. She stated that there had also been advocacy for local entrepreneurs in communities and the country as a whole to participate in identified opportunities within the value chain of the mining industry's operations in order to provide more employment with wealth creation avenues.

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