Business News of Saturday, 20 August 2016
The Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that if steps are not taken to stop the activities of illegal miners, the union would withdraw its services to the industry.
“Considering the dangers posed by this menace and the threat to the safety and security of our members, we as a union may be compelled at any stage to withdraw labour services to the industry if this situation persists”, the National Executive Council of the union, the General Secretary, Mr. Prince William Ankrah, said at a council meeting.
He observed that the issue had reached an alarming proportion, forcing AngloGold Ashanti to take the government to the International Court of Arbitration.
“Indeed, this enterprise has now reached a crescendo, forcing companies like AngloGold Ashanti to, out of desperation, file a suit against the government of Ghana at the International Court of Arbitration.
“Today, the safety and security of mining companies and our members cannot be guaranteed anymore, given the organised, sophisticated and aggressive nature of these illegal miners and their attacks on these concessions,” he said.
He said the illegal miners had been emboldened by politicians who had been promising them concessions.
“Our cherished members are living and working in fear, not sure what the next headline story would be. Sadly, these nefarious activities are carried out in the fullest glare of the powers that be, unfortunately with impunity,” he said.
Mr. Ankrah said even though the government amended the Minerals and Mining Act, criminalising illegal small-scale mining, “it appears to be the same government emboldening the perpetuation of this illegality and this sounds quite worrying and disappointing to us, to say the least”.
He called on the government to be bold and enforce the law and put to a stop to the activities of these illegal small-scale miners, adding, “We believe that enforcement of the law still remains a major challenge and needs to be looked at closely, and this should be done devoid of politicization and cronyism.”
He said considering the spate of destruction caused to the environment by these illegal miners, “it will be extremely difficult to bequeath anything meaningful to generations yet unborn if we continue on this indiscriminate tangent with impunity.”
“Today, water bodies which used to serve domestic purposes are all polluted, lands are degraded and communities are displaced due largely to the activities of these illegal miners.
The Chairman of the union, Mr. Kwarko Mensah Gyarkari, urged government to weed out illegal miners from the country’s mining sector, explaining that the menace had, over the years, spread into legally acquired mining concessions and that has dented the image of the sector.
He observed that the Owere Mine at the Konongo, Meson at Bibiani and AngloGold Ashanti at Obuasi as some of the legally acquired mines that galamsey operators have encroached on.
“If steps are not taken by those who call the short to stop this wanton disregard to law and order, within the shortest time possible, the whole mining industry would be swept by these illegal miners.”
“Unfortunately, this threatens the survival and existence of a vibrant industry that generates for the economy huge income in the form of royalty and taxes, and yet has been subjected to political football,” he said.