A recent call by the Member of Parliament for South Dayi Constituency Simon Edem Asimah for the National Security to investigate and subsequently expose influential persons suspected to be behind illegal small scale mining and the recent controversial statement made by a national security capo-Col. Robert Nyankah, to the effect that the country’s quest for a $3bn loan from China is hampering the nation’s efforts at fighting illegal mining, has ignited a debate from the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Africa-Network, (ASMAN) calling for a regulatory change in the country’s mining laws to allow foreigners to partner indigenous Ghanaians in a Medium Scale Mining category, especially in the area of hard rock mining, as a means of reducing or eliminating illegal mining (galamsey) in Ghana.
According to ASMAN, such a regulatory framework will bridge the gap between the Large (Commercial) Scale and the Small Scale Mining sectors; and also provide the much needed technical and financial resources which compel most Ghanaian Small Scale Mining Concession owners to bring in illegal foreign operators as partners or cede off portions of their large scale concessions to illegal mining operators.
Such a move according to the Executive Director of ASMAN, Nii Adjetey-Kofi Mensah, will resolve the issue of large scale concession owners ceding bits and pieces of large scale lands to small scale operators will eliminate the current menace of illegal Mining bedeviling the country within the short-medium term, sustain the industry and safeguard the environment through pragmatic reclamation and environmental management programmes.
In response to Col. Nyankah’s statement, Nii Adjetey-Kofi said ASMAN was happy that government is gradually coming to terms with the reality and admitting that the fight against the illegal mining menace is not succeeding, adding that there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in regulation to acknowledge the financial and technical role of the foreigners in the Mining sector, since Government is unable to support the Ghanaian Small Scale Miner with the needed Finance and re-tooling by way of equipment and affordable technology.
“Mining as we all know, it’s a very financially and technically demanding industry and the reality is that the average Ghanaian Small Scale Miner is not in a capacity to meet such needs; hence cede portions to small scale operators to generate income or fall on these foreigners for support in terms of cash and equipment to execute their projects, so why don’t we recognize their role in the laws so that government can effectively monitor them and hold them accountable?” Nii Adjetey-Kofi questioned
Nii Adjetey-Kofi said “time has come for us to stop behaving like ostriches and face the reality on the ground, explaining that many successful Small Scale Miners in the country at the moment has some level of direct or indirect foreigner involvement in their operations”
Nii Adjetey-Kofi said with the current trend in which Government spends the tax payer’s money in an attempt to fighting the menace, through the use of task force etc, will not only lead to a loss of revenue but ultimately bring in its wake, socio economic challenges as a result of unemployment and a worsened environment state (as currently pertaining) due to abandoned pits and polluted River bodies.
However a change in regulation will mean that activities of these foreigners who partner Ghanaians can be monitored and subjected to the strict mining and environmental laws of the country, and that in as long as Government continues to view the challenge of illegal mining from just the environmental destruction periscope, its efforts will be fruitless, adding that the illegal mining canker is more of a livelihood and economic issue that has the potential to create wealth and huge employment opportunities for the youth, if well managed.
Mr. Adjetey further stressed that the Small Scale Mining Industry is the only extractive industry that feeds the local extractive metal needs of the country contributing an average of about 30% of net gold produce in Ghana annually, and directly and indirectly employing more than two million people. The large Scale Mining Company has always and continues to export their produce outside the country with relatively very little benefits to the state.
The status quo, according to ASMAN has left over 95% of Small Scale Mining operators out of the corporate tax bracket, since there is no formal process to effectively monitor their operations by way of income and expenditure, thus causing huge revenue losses to the state. ASMAN is however convinced that with a change in regulation most of the foreigners together with their Ghanaian partners will have the capacity to employ capable financial and management administrators to keep their books in good order and to make them easily taxable.
Mr. Adjetey is of the opinion that if the state doesn’t find it worthwhile to recognize the role of these foreigners in the Small Scale Mining Industry then it should consider putting in place a deliberate policy that will guarantee finance and technical support from financial institutions that are currently shying away from the industry due to the high risk involved.
ASMAN is therefore calling on Government, Civil Society, the Legislature (parliamentary sub committees on mines as well as that on environment and science) the international community and the Regulatory Bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minerals Commission among other stakeholders to urgently begin a consultative process towards this end.
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