The mining industry is one of the sectors that contribute significantly to the GDP of Ghana. Though with decreases in prices of gold on the world market, the sector still contributes much to the economy. According to a report from Trading Economics at the close of 2015, mining industry accrued an amount of GHS497m to the economy.
However, the sector is saddled with the activities of illegal mining by indigenes and foreigners alike which is taking a heavy toll on the economy. This has led to the recent pledge of the minister designate for Lands and Natural Resource, John Peter Amewu, to halt the activities of Chinese who are engaged in these activities.
Alluvial mining popularly known as “galamsey” is a word parsed and translated as “gather (gold) and sell” which have been blended into the local language as ‘galam-sey.’ This activity has been going on since time immemorial by local people in gold mining enclaves to better their lives. In recent times this activity is taking a heavy toll on the economy due to the illegal processes involved in getting the product and the environmental degradation that accompanies it. In view of this the Mineral and Mining Act 2006, Act 706 was promulgated to regulate these activities.
The Act recognizes two streams in the mining sector: large scale mining (mostly for industries) and small scale mining (mostly operated by individual entrepreneurs). However, since the industry is capital intensive, most citizens opt for the small scale mining where local indigenes in mostly co-opt for unregulated and unsafe way of mining –illegal mining.
The activity of these illegal miners requires few equipment than small scale mining. This encourages most people to engage in this activity. This has serious ripple implications on the economy ranging from environment to economy. Mr. Isaac Abraham, Head of Corporate Affairs of Minerals Commission, indicated that the Commission spends about 80% of its annual revenue in clamping down these illegal mining activities. This he said during Penplusbytes 2016 media training on extractives.
lately, the emergence of Chinese miners venturing into the ‘business’ with prospecting licenses has urged the minister designate for Lands and Natural Resources on to declaring his intentions to clamp down on the activities of these foreigners. What makes the issue complicated is the problem of ‘fronting’. This enable foreigners to indulge in these activities which are meant for citizens. The question that arises therefore is whether this renewed war against illegal mining can be successful? What then happens to indigenes who are also involved in these activities?
The NPP government, promised electorates in page 27 of its 2016 manifesto to “reconstruct the small scale mining industry so that its activities can take place within guidelines set up under the appropriate regulation. This will enable small scale miners to work and earn their livelihoods in a regulated, secure and lawful environment.” This promise was re-echoed by the minister designate immediately after his nomination. He stated “we believe that the capacities of these youth involved in these activities have to be built for them to conduct their mining activities in a more sustainable way.”
What’s the way forward?
The media and civil society organizations in the country have been agitating for the government to streamline and regularize the activities of these illegal miners to be made legal. The Head of Policy Unit of African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Dr Ishmael Ackah indicated that “even if the activities of the bigger mining companies are fraught with accidental spillage of dangerous and harmful chemicals, then what about the illegal miners who do not follow any guidelines, hence the need to license and regulates their activities.” So we ask, can the minister deliver this promise and when do we expect such action to be carried out? What measures are there to ensure the operationalization of this promise?
by: Kwabena Tabiri, reportingoilandgas.org