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Business News of Thursday, 14 February 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Work plan to mainstream small scale mining developed

A national work-plan to mainstream the small scale mining sector in Ghana has been developed.

To give impetus to the plan, a national policy on mining is being finalised and is currently before the Cabinet.

It highlights small scale mining as a serious national issue with a potential that should be harnessed for national development.

The National Security sub-committee on Lands and Natural Resources, an inter-agency committee made up of the security agencies and stakeholders in the mining sector, the body mandated to develop the plan, met in Accra Wednesday to deliberate on further making it more comprehensive.

The body was formed in September 2009 to help address the issue of illegal mining which at the time had assumed a national dimension resulting in the destruction of the environment and other water bodies.

It is being funded by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC) with support from the Ghana Chamber of Mines (GCM).

BUSAC commissioned a team to research into the activities of illegal mining as a result of which the plan was developed to mainstream the sector.

Setting the tone for the meeting the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Mines, Dr Toni Aubynn, said small scale mining was legal in the country and that what was of concern was the activities of persons who were operating outside of the prescribed regulation.

He observed that people ought to be encouraged to engage in legal mining in order to preserve the environment for the good of all.

A member of the committee, Brigadier General Daniel K. Mishio, said the policy was to eliminate illegal mining in water bodies and the forest reserves this year.

He expressed the hope that with support from mining stakeholders the menace could be reduced by 60 per cent this year but noted that could only be achieved through a sustained effort.

A member of the BUSAC research team who presented the work-plan to the committee members, Mr Ambrose Yennah, said there was a medium term programme for the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies which would be followed up by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) which document was currently at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources for further work.

He stated that legislation on the Minerals Development Fund (MDF) was being finalised into law and added that some resources from the mining royalties were being allocated to that fund.

According to him, currently, 10 per cent of mining royalties went to the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands, 10 per cent to the MDF and 80 per cent to the government as prescribed by the Constitution.

Mr Yennah proposed that of the 10 per cent MDF, five per cent should be channeled into small scale mining development in the area of exploration and infrastructural development in mining communities.

“Royalties should be increased to 30 per cent and out of this 20 per cent should be set aside for the Minerals Development Fund,” he added.

According to the plan, a plant pool should be established to hire out mining equipment and tools to licensed small scale miners who, as a result of lack of access to equipment, were compelled to bring in financiers who provided equipment and bore the cost of operation.

The research team advocated for the reviewing, strengthening and updating already existing regulations to make them more relevant to the current needs and challenges of the industry.

The team wants the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expedite action on decentralisation and further simplify the licensing procedures to achieve a better compliance regime by small scale miners with timelines for issuance of licenses.

“Effort should also be made to be made to synchronise the laws governing the EPA, Minerals Commission and the Water Resources Commission,” Mr Yennah stated.

All small scale miners were urged to register with their respective metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies and pay appropriate taxes to the government and the local authorities, according to My Yennah, there were some payments ongoing in some districts.

Political interference as well as interference from traditional authorities and other higher profile personalities were identified as some of the challenges mitigating against efforts to mainstream the sector and secure efficient and effective enforcement.