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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Columnist: Badu, K

Weep for Ghana!

By: Badu K

Truth be told, I cannot holdback my arousing disgust towards the ‘enemies of the state’-apologies to Anas Aremeyaw.

Let us face it, though, the mass degradation of our countryside by the recalcitrant illegal miners is outrageous.

Nevertheless, the mining sector regulators and other law enforcement bodies are somehow wholly unaware of the seriousness of the destruction, hence their refusal to curb the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners.

Apparently, it is on record that some unpatriotic Chiefs would often allocate lands to the illegal miners, knowing too well that it is unlawful for any individual to sanction small-scale mining, as it is only the Ghana Minerals Commission who has the exclusive right to do so.

To put it bluntly, those Chiefs who are colluding with illegal miners to forcibly dig our natural resources, terrorise the rural dwellers and then wreck the environment must be upbraided with no uncertain terms.

In any case, we should rather blame the mining sector regulators and other law enforcement bodies for their lackadaisical approach to duty. Truly, they have not shown true leadership in the fight against illegal mining.

It must, however, be emphasised that per the Constitution of Ghana, no citizen of Ghana is above the law. Yes, the Constitution is candid. However, in my opinion, the enforcement of the laws leaves much to be desired.

Obviously, there are laws which regulate the small- scale mining sector in Ghana. So, why are the authorities not enforcing such laws?

I will however venture to suggest that a number of organisations are complicit with the putridity in the small-scale mining sector.

Take, for example, we have Ghana Minerals Commission whose responsibilities include the enforcement of the rules and regulations—the 1989 small-scale mining law (PNDC L218) and the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703).

Clearly, both Acts “require any person wanting to engage in any form of mining to obtain the requisite licence from the Minister responsible for Mines.”

Moreover, the holders of mineral rights and licences are by law required to obtain the necessary approvals and permits from the appropriate quarters, such as Environmental Protection Agency; Forestry Commission, where forests are involved; and Water Resources Commission, where water is involved before the Miners can commence operation.

More importantly, the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act 703), places a duty on the aforementioned organisations to work collaboratively to ensure that the existing miners’ and the prospective Miners adhere to various regulations.

With such expedient policies in place, why the mess in the small scale mining sector then?

I am afraid, at the moment, it seems that nobody is policing the small scale mining sector. It would appear that the people who are in receipt of the small scale mining concessions are not privy to the laws which govern the sector.

This may explain why Ghanaians who are in receipt of small-scale mining concessions transfer the licences to their foreign minions.

Let us face it, though, it is a worrying situation. Indeed, some people are not doing what is expected of them.

Take, for instance, even though the small scale mining laws prohibit the use of large explosives, Chinese and other illegal miners have been allowed to use unstructured methods, and at the same time supplying large explosive, rock crushers and other machines to local miners.

Obviously, the authorities have not shown true leadership in the fight to halt the activities of the illegal miners.

Strangely, it seems that some Ghanaians are above our laws. It would appear that the laws were not enacted for them.

If, indeed, some Chiefs are giving out lands for illegal mining without the prior knowledge of the Ghana Minerals Commission, the question one may ask then is: ‘Why no incompliant Chiefs have since been brought to book? Are they above the law?

We cannot and must not allow some unpatriotic Chiefs who do not have the nation at heart enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of Ghanaians.

Someone ought to remind our Chiefs that respect is earned, but not to be seen as a God given entitlement.

So, our hitherto well-respected Chiefs must revert to their old and discreet ways and then continue to earn our respect. For, their waywardness will not earn them such respect.

Let us also remind our Chiefs that they may 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.

In any case, it is incumbent on the authorities to repudiate such abhorrent actions by the wayward and unpatriotic Chiefs.

But then again, the all-important question is: do the authorities have the will and the commitment to do so? I do not think so.

All the same, let us remind the authorities that if our Chiefs persist with their shenanigans, they should be sent to ‘Nsawam Prisons’.

Furthermore, let us remind the authorities that the 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, what is more, we should seek to strengthen and resource regulatory bodies such as the Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory institutions to improve the discharge of their responsibilities.