Participants at a day’s Mining Forum in Accra have called for strict implementation of the country’s mining law to help save the environment and the economy from the negative implications of illegal mining.
While admitting the existence of several legislation and regulations governing the mining sector ,the participants said the inability of regulatory bodies and some state agencies to effectively implement the laws has caused illegal mining to flourish despite its repercussions on the environment and revenue generation.
“These illegal miners just destroy the environment and go free. They pollute our water bodies ,dry the rivers up and spoil our farms just for free” one of the participants from a royal family said while leading not to be mentioned.
“If you come to my community (Atiwa in the Eastern Region), you will see deep pits left by these illegal miners. The environment there is completely destroyed and no serious activity can take place there again “he added.
The participants, drawn from civil society groups, mining institutions, traditional rulers, government officials among others, were expressing their concerns on mining during the maiden National Mining Forum organized by the Minerals Commission, the body that regulates the country’s mining sector.
It was on the theme: Managing Ghana’s Mineral Resources for Sustainable National Development.
The Minerals Commission is hoping to institutionalize the forum as an annual event to help widen stakeholders’ participation and discussions on mining issues.
Although the country is home to large quantities of mineral resources .such as gold, bauxite, and manganese..Utter disregard for local mining laws by most people and institutions is rendering the resources more of curse than a blessing, especially to the host communities.
Issues of depleting water bodies, aquatic livestock and forestry resources as a result of improper mining, mostly by persons not license to mine-galamsey operators-abound.
Although the Minerals Commission has currently licensed about 80 entities to undertake mining and its related activities nationwide, most individuals and institutions are known to be flouting the law on mining and rather destroy the environment and deny the state of the ended revenues.
The Eastern Region, which is home to a chunk of the country’s mineral reserves, is currently suffering from the ravaging effects of some of these illegal mining activities.
The Western Regional Minister ,Mr. Victor Smith ,said at the forum that state institutions with oversight duties on the on the mining sector needed to effectively carry out their responsibilities to the letter or be blamed for the recent surge in illegal mining in the country.
“I will not blame anybody for some of these things. I will want to hold the state agencies entrusted with the enforcement of the mining laws accountable for allowing some of these things (incidence of galamsey) to go on.
“The Minerals Commission, the Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the other agencies have a duty to protect this land. If these bodies fail to do that, then I think we must be asking why”, the Minister said.
In addition to the involvement of locals in the galamsey operations, more foreigners are known to be rushing into the sector to the frustration of the Minerals Commission, Regional Coordinating Councils and other stakeholders in the sector.
Recently, a taskforce mandated to flush out illegal miners in the Eastern Region separately arrested three Spaniards and two Chinese engaged in the activity at Atiwa. Again youth of Manso-Nsiena ,a mining community in the Amansie West District in the Ashanti Region ,clashed with gun-wielding Chinese over allegations that the latter were destroying the environment through illegal mining.
“Government is not stopping anybody from mining. But if you want to mine, please respect the laws, ”Mr., Smith stressed.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources ,Mr. Mike Hammah, said his outfit was particularly not impressed with decisions of some courts to release equipment seized from illegal mining since such actions had the tendency of encouraging the practice.