Illegal mining activities, a great challenge to the minerals commission – PRO

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Accra, Nov, 16, GNA –The fight against uncontrolled illegal mining activities, popularly called “galamsey”, is putting a huge financial burden on the Minerals Commission, the main promotional and regulatory body for the minerals sector in the country.

    According to the commission, it spends 80 percent of its annual resources to help control illegal mining, but the major national challenge in the mining sector seems insurmountable.

     Mr Isaac Abraham, Public Relations Officer of the Commission, which is a public agency established under Article 269 of the 1992 Constitution, recommended a multi-sectoral approach to help bring the practice under control.

     He was speaking at the on-going national media training course on oil, gas and mining for selected Journalists in Accra.

     The 14-day course Core B is a follow-up to the regional training Core A which was held in Tanzania for 24 African journalists selected from Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda from October 16-29, this year.

    Being organised by the NRGI, in collaboration with Penplusbytes, the International Institute of ICT Journalism, the training programmes are aimed at empowering participants to tell the true story in the extractive sector.

     Mr Abraham indicated that the fight against illegal mining in Ghana remained unsuccessful because the problem had taken partisan dimensions “with important personalities funding the perpetrators”.

     Because of this development, the PRO said commitment shown by successive government to address the challenge remained low.

     Mr Abraham mentioned lack of enforcement of the Minerals and Mining Act 2006, Act 703 as another key contributory factor impeding efforts to curtail illegal mining in the country.

     He explained that as a regulatory body, the commission did not have any legal mandate or support to prosecute perpetrators or enforce the Act.

     Notwithstanding, Mr Abraham said the mining sector was making significant contribution to the growth of the local economy.

     He said as at December 2015, 265 local and foreign companies held prospecting and reconnaissance licenses, adding that large-scale miners were operating in the country.

      Mr Abraham said the country produced 4.3 million ounces of gold in 2014 but annual production slightly declined to 3.6 million ounces in 2015 because of several problems, including the downward trend in the price of gold, coupled the national electricity supply challenges.

     However, artisanal miners at Obuasi, an ancient mining town in the Ashanti Region, held varied opinions and blamed the commission for the surge in illegal mining activities.

     Mr Benjamin Annan, spokesperson for the small-scale miners, told the reporters that the commission had failed on its constitutional mandate in regulating the mining industry.

     He said large-scale mining at Obuasi had led to the loss of livelihoods of many residents as a result of low compensation, destroyed and polluted water bodies in the town and its adjoining communities.

     Mr Annan said expressed discomfort about the surge in alluvia mining mostly undertaken by Chinese expatriate in the area.

     According to him, many water bodies in the area had been destroyed because the operators used heavy duty and earth moving machines in their unscrupulous activities.

     Mr Christopher Opoku-Nyarko, a research officer at the Ghana Chamber of Mines, expressed worry about uncontrolled illegal mining, saying almost all the commercial and multi-national mining companies frowned on the practice.

     Despite the challenges, the research officer said last year the sector contributed GHC 1.35 billion to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), representing 14.8 per cent of the GRA’s Direct Tax in 2015.

     Mr Opoku-Nyarko expressed unhappiness about the low level of development in many mining communities in the country and advised the government to be committed to providing infrastructure development in those communities.

     According to reports from the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ghana is the 10th leading producer of gold in the world, and the second largest in the continent after South Africa.

     However, illegal mining started long ago before independence.

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