He said both the legal regime and the organized nature of small scale mining in the East African country bore valuable lessons which Ghana must adopt and implement vigorously if it is to stem the tide of the wanton destruction of the environment and the loss of human lives through accidents in the mining process.
Mr. Avornyo was speaking to Myjoyonline.com on the sidelines of a media training workshop for selected media personnel from Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, in Dar es Salaam on oil, gas and mining.
A facilitator at the training programme, Mr Avornyo said, the experience in Arusha and the Mirerani mining site where mainly Tanzanite is mined was enlightening.
The journalists, as part of the training programme organized by the Revenue Watch Institute and the Norwegian Church, in collaboration with the Thompson Reuters Foundation and the International Institute for ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes), were taken to Arusha, Tanzania and a mining site at Mirerani to observe operations of the small scale miners there.
The journey from Dar es Salaam to Arusha took the whole day but the journalists were not bored, thanks to the beautiful landscape resplendent with beautifully-shaped mountains and the awesome view of Africa’s highest height, Mountain Kilimanjaro.
At the sight of the mountain, journalists shouted ecstatically at the young bus driver who screeched to a halt to allow them catch the rare photo moment. But before long, the mountain disappeared behind the swirling clouds.
The next day, the team left Arusha for the mining town of Mirerani where the entire membership of the Manyara Regional Miners Association (MAREMA) was waiting.
The journey was long and the road was rough and bumpy. A hale of dust furiously chased after the vehicles as they snaked their way through the dusty, rough road. The shock-absorbers of the bus used by the journalists would later have to be fixed. Masai pastoralists, clad in red blankets, were seen herding droves of goats grazing on the sparse dry grasses on the semi-arid land. Their match-box shed taking a beaten from the hazardous weather dotted along the road. Occasionally, there was a modern house obviously owned by one Masai who prospered from mining Tanzanite.
The journalists were received by the leaders of the mining association in the premises of the Simanjiro District of the Manyara Region. Its Chairman, and a mine owner himself, Albert Siloli, explained that the Mirerani town was created in 2008 in view of the Tanzanite mine in the area. The main stay of the economy of the 50,000 population is, therefore, mining even though agriculture and livestock keeping are also done on a small scale. The town, according to him, is 26 kilometers off the main Moshie-Arusha road and has naturally attracted people from all over Tanzania.
To maintain discipline and orderliness, all the miners in the area belong to the association. Mr. Benedict Gabriel Mmasi, a member of MAREMA, said there was no miner operating in the area who was not a member of the association; “It is strictly forbidden,” he said.
This is one of the key lessons, according to Fred Avornyo, that Ghana must learn from Tanzania. “Over the years Ghana has been struggling to have a well structured small scale mining industry because the opportunity exists; there is the opportunity for business people to acquire concessions, work on them as small scale miners but it is obvious that it has not been very effective,” he said.
No visible illegal mining in Tanzania
Mr. Avornyo said unlike Ghana where large numbers of people, men and women forage and dig the earth in search for minerals and destroying the environment and polluting water bodies in an uncontrolled and indiscriminate manner, “in Tanzania there is a very organized small scale mining such that illegal mining appears not to exist.”
Mr. Mmasi told Myjoyonline.com there “is no way anybody can engage in mining without a license. Members of the association will immediately inform the government and he will be arrested.”
Mr Avornyo said the situation where people in Ghana refuse to take licenses authorising them to engage in mining is one that is unacceptable and must be frowned upon. In Tanzania, “people who want to go into mining are given concessions to mine or clearly defined places where they can go and mine and these people employ the people who do the real drilling which I find very interesting.”
In fact the Mirerani mining site itself is fenced with only one gate through which only lawful workers or mine owners can have access to the area. In this fenced area are various concessions owned by different miners, something the business analyst believes is novel.
He was worried that the situation of illegal mining in Ghana had deteriorated to such alarming levels that even foreigners, notably Chinese, were having a field day in the country. According to a July 9, 2013 Bloomberg report, “Ghana arrested 1,568 foreigners and 51 nationals since June 1 in a bid to end illegal mining in Africa’s second-biggest gold producer.”
Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Inusah Fuseini, was quoted as saying “The resolve of the inter-ministerial task force to clean out the small-scale mining sector is unwavering…We will pursue all violators of our mining laws.”
A member of MAREMA said some Chinese came to the Mirerani town hoping to participate in the business of mining Tanzanite but left when they realized there was no space for them.
The 2010 Tanzanian mining law stated, “A primary mining licence for any minerals shall not be granted to an individual, partnership or body corporate unless- (a) in the case of an individual, the individual is a citizen of Tanzania; (b) in the case of a partnership, it is composed exclusively of citizens of Tanzania; (c) in the case of a body corporate, it is a company and-(i) its membership is composed exclusively of citizens of Tanzania; (ii) its directors are all citizens of Tanzania; (iii) control over the company, both direct and indirect, is exercised, from within Tanzania by persons all of whom are citizens of Tanzania.”
Mr Fred Avornyo, who is also a former Business News Editor of Ghana’s foremost private radio station Joy FM, said the excuse that illegal miners in the country were engaging in the burgeoning illicit business because of the cumbersome process of obtaining license was untenable.
It takes about a year in Tanzania, according to the Councilor of the Mirerani Township Authority and also a miner, Mr. Justin Nnyare, to obtain a license and costs 160,000 Tanzanian Shillings. But that, Mr Avornyo said, does not give would-be miners the right to violate the law, as was happening in Ghana, by mining without a license.
The cost of obtaining a license, according to the MAREMA Vice President, was an increase from 20,000 Shillings and posed a threat the mining business. But that is not the only problem confronting the miners.
Although the 2010 mining law says that “A mining licence for mining gemstones shall only be granted to applicants who are Tanzanians,” the reality, according to Mr. Aramadani, is that “some big foreign companies are engaged in mining gemstones.”
Town Council Chairman, Mr. Siloli said because the economy of Mirema hinges largely on the mineral, problems in the mining sector affects everything.
That, he said is the reason the miners and residents of the town have persistently lobbied the government to establish an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to process the mineral and add value to it.
That way, jobs will be created for the local people and the economy will receive a major boost, the stated. He, however, expressed regret that the government had not listened to their cries, despite the fact the noise is growing louder by the day.
“Currently, the big mining companies are carrying away the minerals and their value as well,” he said through an interpreter.
When journalists arrived at the gated mining site, red-eyed shabbily dressed army of mine workers eased out of their ramshackle sheds. They were not working because there was a power cut and even though they have gen sets, the debilitating cost of fuel actually discourage their use.
A 28-year-old miner, Frank Charles Lymo, who said the hope of a better day kept him working in the mines for over a decade even though the conditions under which he works are pretty hazardous, told journalists they have no safety boots, oxygen masts or helmets.
To minimize the fatal accidents in the mines, the government, according to the Secretary of MAREMA, Mr. Abubakar Madiwa, recommended a technology called 45 degrees system. With this system, mine pits are dug horizontally. This system, according to him, has led to a 90 per cent reduction in accidents and their attendant deaths. 50 people used to die annually from pit collapse and other accidents before the introduction of the system.
There is a committee enforcing compliance with this technology, he stated.
No such technology exists in Ghana and the yearly deaths are frightening. An April 15, 2013 Reuters report stated that, “At least 17 people were killed while mining illegally at a disused gold mine in Ghana’s central region when the ground caved in on them on Monday, local authorities and eyewitnesses said.” Such accidents are common in Ghana.
Apart from the hazardous conditions, some of the workers in Tanzania have worked for years without pay because they work under an arrangement with the mine owners in which they are only paid when they produce.
One female miner with 60 workers, Mrs Rachel Joseph Njau, said she had been mining for 11 years now without an ounce of Tanzanite. And all this while, the workers have not been paid.
Frank Lymo has worked for years without pay. But he has kept alive. He dreams of buying a big, a nice car and marrying a beautiful lady. He is indeed a Tanzanite dreamer.
He started the mining work at age 15 and is now 28.
No child labour
The local leaders insisted that there was no child labour mining in the area; “it is not permissible,” Jafar Faraj Mutambi, a mine owner said.
He said even though the problem existed in the past, the combined efforts of the government and miners themselves had eradicated child labour at the mining site.
Indeed some persons suspected to be minors ducked and avoided the cameras when journalists arrived at the Mirerani mining site.
The Founder of Hakimadini, an Arusha-based civil society organization fighting for justice for miners in Tanzania, Mr. Amani Mustafa Mhinda, said years of advocacy had reduced the incidence of child labour in mining.
Giving a brief history of the mining industry in the country, Mr. Mhinda said Tanzania turned to mining after failed attempts at an agricultural revolution.
To deal with increasing discontent amongst the populace, iconic leader, Julius Nyerere allowed small scale mining but only for Tanzanians and when Tanzanite was discovered, it formed the basis for the creation of towns like Mirerani.
Local lore has it that one David Dimayaya discovered the precious mineral in 1967 and showed it to Shaban Ngoma who informed the government. Samples were sent to the United States where the mineral was tested and proven to be a valuable resource.
Nobody knows the whereabouts of Mr Dimayaya but Mr. Ngoma is said to be living in abject poverty somewhere in Arusha, having made unsuccessful attempts to claim patent rights to the mineral said to be found only in Tanzania.
Ali Juuya Watu, who first commercialised Tanzanite, is late now. He and the other people who profited from Tanzanite didn’t have to dig; they simply picked the precious ornament from the stony bare land dotted by sparse patches of grass providing fodder for herds of goats and cows.
The local people say the big companies have failed to establish an EFZ in Mirerani but in spite of this there is some value addition going on in Arusha.
The journalists visited the Gemology and Jewelry Training Centre where young men are being trained to do cutting, sorting, and shaping of raw Tanzanite.
A director of the school, Mr. Peter K. Salla, said the institute had so far trained about 700 people over a period of 12 years.
“Last year from October, this training has been initiated or started at ATC, Arusha Training College, where in collaboration with them, we are training there too,” he added, obviously struggling with the English Language.
A student, Humphrey Urio, clutching a pen and scribbling illegibly on a piece of paper told Myjoyonline.com, that “I am writing the formulas for cutting the minerals.”
One of 40 students currently undergoing training, Humphrey has spent two months on the training and expects to pass out in two or four months’ time (depending on how quickly he grasps the techniques).
He hopes to find a job with the mining firms or start his own small business.
Fred Avornyo believes this is the way Ghana must go; create an industry in which small scale miners can add value to their products and create jobs in the process.
As things stand now, he said, Ghana still has a long way to go in realizing the full potential of the small scale mining industry.
Source: Joy Business
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