Business News of Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Sulemanu Konney says it is beneficial for small scale mining firms to legalese and regularize their activities and comply with laid down regulations as well as adhere to strict compliance in their operations.
He was engaged in a conversation with Dr Steve Manteaw, Campaign Coordinator of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC Ghana) and hosted by Dr. Toni Aubynn, Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission.
Discussing Ghana’s extractive industry on Toni Aubynn’s Take on JoyNews, Mr Konney said, it is critical for the mining industry to produce strategic products that can be used locally, such that there will be benefits and uses in other sectors of the economy.
He called on the Ministry of Trade and Industry to be part of this whole endeavour. In his view, It is an affront to the Minerals and Mining law, for Ghanaians to invite foreign nationals into the country to engage in small scale mining. This is happening because indigenous Ghanaians lack capacity in terms of funding and technology.
The Chamber of Mines Boss, referred to a study conducted some years ago which revealed that “most people found in mining pits and exposed to the dangers of illegal mining were just pawns and the barons, so to speak live in the big regional capitals of the country,” and that the total production from the small scale mining sector is actually bigger than any single mining company in this country.
Dr Aubynn said many Ghanaians are complacently part of the problems because they make a living from illegal mining. He cited many linkages with people who rent out excavators; some also refuse to check the implementation of the law, some people knowingly and unknowingly give out lands for small scale mining, even though the law is quite explicit on those who are supposed to give out lands for mining.
He reminded that until 1989, it was not allowed for Ghanaians to engage in mining even though ancient history tells us that we have worked with gold for a very long time. Ghana was among the first few countries to legalize small scale mining in the sub region. He observed that majority of operators within small scale mining, do so on the blind side of the law and Ghana seems to be thriving in illegality.
The Minerals Commission Boss pointed that, leaving small scale mining as a preserve of the law without support mechanism is a major challenge. He bemoaned the situation where there is strict compliance with certification and competence of persons engaged in the trade on a large scale; a situation that does not exist with small scale mining, with no clear guidelines and regulations in this hazardous business.
Dr Aubynn mentioned that the Minerals Commission undertakes exploration in many areas to ascertain the levels of reserves, in an effort to reduce the risks of miming by small and large scale companies yet to operate. He said, they are sometimes confronted with resistance from the communities, only for “galamsey” to take over. The exploration, he says, is done by the Commission at very high cost.
In a quick response, Mr. Konney advised that once government spends money on geological investigations for mining to take place, “and for some reason, the commission is unable to parcel it out; the commission should work with the security agencies to ensure that government gets benefit from that endeavour”.
Dr. Manteaw said it is a question of policy failure, and that, the spirit of the law views small scale mining as a livelihood issue. “What we haven’t done by way of policy support is to make it easy and convenient for people formalize their activities. We need to take the registration process closer to where the activities take place. There is also the need to provide financial support in the form of a venture capital trust fund or facilitate access to credit to procure the needed technology.”
He strongly advocates the need for small scale mining operators to be provided with geological data support to enable them formalize and make the job attractive. He insists that current mining laws must make it easy for people to comply, and that he has interacted severally with many small scale miners who say they won’t leave their activities and come to Accra to chase a piece of paper that will allow them earn a living.
Dr. Manteaw pointed that, the way to deal with mistrust is to work with identifiable groups in mining communities, for them to know that work is being done in their favour.
He also spoke about the National Mining Policy which is currently in place and hopes it allows for the collection of royalties in raw material gold rather than cash, to enable us integrate the gold sector into the rest of the national economy.
The ISODEC campaigner also blamed the big mining companies as the major reason many Ghanaians have not seen the impact of mining in their lives, saying, “they play father Christmas. Their aim is to mine but they go into the communities and play the role of district assemblies, providing water, roads and other infrastructural projects”.
The CEO of the Minerals Commission is hopeful by the end of the year, the country will witness the first mining industry awards to showcase is small scale mining in particular.