The Ghana Chamber of Mines says government must urgently crack the whip on illegal mining and make it an unattractive venture, to help curb the perennial incidents of illegal miners invading concessions of large-scale mining companies and restore investor confidence.
The Chamber said the actions of illegal miners, in some cases, are backed by foreigners with heavy machinery and people in the corridors of power.
A statement issued and signed by Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber Mr Sulemanu Koney said: “The country stands to lose heavily if the activities of illegal miners are allowed to fester ahead of the election in 2016. There is a clear and present danger to our environment and to Ghana’s economy as illegal miners fight large-scale mining companies for concessions obtained legally.
“This in itself breeds a sense of insecurity and fear among investors, which will cause a slowdown of investment into the country’s mineral resources.”
All the efforts instituted by the Minerals Commission to attract investment into the minerals sector will come to naught if the government does not put in place security measures to prevent an imminent loss of investor confidence in the country, which comes with the risk of some companies cutting investments.
The Chamber observed that over the years mining companies has received support from the National Security Committee on Lands and Natural Resources in addressing the encroachment of concessions by illegal miners, adding that there are however pockets of illegal miners which continue to encroach on the companies’s concessions in spite of interventions by the state.
This illegality deprives duly licenced companies of the opportunity to exploit inherent mineral resources more safely and prudentially while it creates additional costs for the companies in rehabilitating the land. In the past, the pits excavated by illegal miners have claimed the lives of some employees, security agencies and residents of the host communities.
“Honestly, the country earns nothing from the activities of these illegal miners. Only a few unscrupulous individuals benefit from it. It is no secret that the government loses significant amounts of tax revenue every year as a result of such illegal mining activities.
“Apart from projecting a bad image for the entire mining sector, the repercussions to the environment are ominous. If the activities of the illegal miners are not restrained in time they will undermine Ghana’s efforts at sustaining and attracting much-needed investment in the mining industry,” he stated.
Companies such as AngloGold Ashanti-Obuasi Mine in recent weeks, and Perseus Mining at Ayanfuri in recent months, have seen an escalation of activities by illegal miners on their concessions.
These companies, who employ thousands of Ghanaians, are compelled to use all legal means to eject the miners from their concessions with the help of security personnel. This has sometimes resulted in violent confrontations, leading to injuries and destruction running into millions of dollars.
AngloGold Ashanti has particularly been inundated by illegal miners, resulting in its inability to attract investors for partnership in revamping the mine.
The recent surge in illegal mining activities at the Obuasi Mine has been violent, leading to the death of one of the company’s senior employees, and follows withdrawal of the military contingent that had been stationed at there.
AngloGold Ashanti as a result has evacuated some of its employees for safety and security reasons, while the illegal miners have remained at the mine.
They have now worked their way to certain underground workings, using explosives in the process.
The audaciousness of illegal miners in perpetrating this act despite the new Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, which criminalises the act and ascribes punitive measures, is baffling to say the least.
The Chamber is calling on government to immediately return the military to AGA-Obuasi to protect life and property at the mine, and in order to restore investor confidence and attract necessary investment into the mining sector.