Small scale miners under the Ghana National Association Of Small Scale Miners(GNASSM), have threatened to return to their consignment sites with immediate effect and face-off with security agencies who will dare try to stop them.
At a press conference in Kumasi on Wednesday, they threatened to vent their spleen on any government official or security agency that will dare try to stop them from engaging in mining activities because they have the requisite documentation that permits them to do that.
“We are going back to our mining sites. The period government gave us has elapsed and we can no longer be waiting while our children and dependents die of hunger”, they threatened.
According to them, they are not also in support of illegal mining but through the actions of the illegal miners, have had to endure the pain of living with any income indicating that the time is ripe for them to return to their sites.
The Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM) however has a few concerns that it wishes to bring to the attention of the government and other security agencies in the fight against illegal mining.
The current administration in the quest to fight against illegal mining has tendered to suppress legal small scale miners from engaging in their legal gainful employment.
It is worrying that the government while trying to fight illegal mining has in its wake ban all legal mining. All the members of the Association have got the requisite Mining license as proscribed by law to legally mine.
However, the government has not made this distinction between the legal mining and illegal mining but rather asked all small scale mining to stop.
The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources asked all mining activities to stop. The Association although thought this directive was illegal asked all members to move from their sites until the new government gets its feet properly on the ground.
Ironically, the minister was rather fixated on legal miners who had gone through the process to acquire licenses and leave people who had no legal right whatsoever to mine. We are of the firm belief that until and unless the individual license are revoked the Minister and security agencies have no legal right to prevent members from engaging in their legally chosen employment.
The Association also finds it mind boggling that while the security agencies and the government would not allow legally licensed miners to work, they have also prevented individual members of the Association to cover pits on their sites.
These pits which have been left uncovered pose death threat to people in these mining areas. it is the responsibility of any miner to cover any pit dug while mining. This means that if any person falls in any pit dug by a miner, the said miner could be charged with manslaughter. It is however very strange that while the security agencies and government officials seek to prevent licensed miners to work, they also do not allow them to cover their pits.
On the 13th of July, 2017 the Association wrote to the District Chief Executive copied to the various security agencies to allow individual miners to cover these pits. We intimated to them that we wanted them to supervise the covering of these pits.
Sadly, our request simply fell on deaf ears and individual members of the Association live in the fear of facing serious charges if anything untoward happens to anyone who might fall in any of the pits.
We also wish to bring to the attention of the general public that the Association has a task force which was and is still fighting illegal miners. We want to place on record the task force has contributed immensely in the arrest of illegal miners. It is through the task force that illegal miners on our water bodies popularly referred to as TOTOTO has been halted. Indeed but for the efforts of the task force most of the illegal miners would have still continued with their impunity.
Our major concern in the fight against illegal mining is that we believe that government officials and some members of the security agencies have not demonstrated that they are fighting against illegal miners but rather legal miners. It is disheartening to note that our licenses have not been revoked, suspended and or cancelled yet legal miners are bearing the brunt of the so called operation on galamsey and tototo. We feel that members of the association are being unfairly targeted and losing very expensive mining equipment because of lack of discretion by the security agencies and other government officials.
We therefore wish to bring to the attention of the general public that the members of the Association who have valid licenses for this year would go back to their mining sites to carry out their rightful legal employment. We also want to draw the attention of the security agencies that while we believe that they have the right to carry out their constitutionally mandated jobs they must act at times in a fair and just manner. Members would deposit copies of their licenses to various security closest to the mining sites before they embark on their activities.
The Association believes that by depositing copies of the mining license with the security agencies; they would have at least given the law enforcement officials the necessary notice of their activities in a mining site. We would also co –operate with the Minerals Commission as well the Environmental Protection Agency before resuming work.
All these measures would been put in place by the Association to guide licensed legal miners. This is not to say that members were breaking the law in times past but rather these measures have been put in place to avoid unnecessary confrontation and arrest by the security agencies.
We would also recommend the government publishes legally licensed individuals on various platforms. We would suggest that the Ministry of Mines and Forestry could create a website for this particular purpose. In this way the government would be preventing illegal mining since it would become clear to everyone whether anyone engaged in mining has the requisite license to do so. Indeed the ministry could simply give the list of legal miners and their details to the various security agencies and to district assemblies. In the meantime the Association is making strenuous efforts to compile a list of licensed miners with the consent of the holders of the licenses.
Finally we are of the firm believe that although this government is right in its efforts to fight illegal mining it must do so within the confines of the law. No one is above the law. The law must not be seen be used against people who operated within the confines of the law.
It is not enough for the government to go about seizing equipment of legal miners. The government must find a solution to the problem of galamsey but in doing so it must not be seen to stepping on the economic rights of legal miners.
Asst. Regional Secretary cc: All media houses