The government will no longer fight illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’ through a militarised approach, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) has said.
The National Project Coordinator of the Multi-Sectoral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP), Dr Isaac Bonsu Karikari, said government was trying to move from attacking the problem through non-combatant and non-militant approaches to that of a project management one because there was a lot of human rights issues involved.
He stated at the national conference on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM), gold and salt in Ghana, organised by the Third World Network Africa (TWN), in Accra.
Dr Karikari said the challenge had been how to develop a strategy which permitted co-existence and promoted the development of orderly, viable and sustainable Small-Scale Mining (SSM) sectors in close collaboration with host communities and local governments within the context of environmental integrity and sanity.
“What the MMIP does differently is to use a project management approach involving clear activities/outputs with associated budgets, clear timelines, milestones, outcomes and impacts using the requisite institutions and the miners themselves to sanitise the galamsey space,” he stated.
He said the project, which is in addition to the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee against galamsey, had received Cabinet approval for implementation.
ASM in Ghana
It is touted as the backbone of gold and diamond production in Ghana, with approximately up to 37 per cent of gold and 100 per cent of diamonds produced in Ghana.
Dr Karikari noted the tremendous potential for job creation and poverty reduction; a significant source of direct (estimated one million) and indirect (estimated three million employment).
“Yet, illegal mining or galamsey remains a challenge. There are incursions into Large-Scale Mining (LSM), concessions leading to conflicts, environmental degradation, deforestation and water pollution, economic leakage through smuggling and tax evasion, lawlessness and social conflicts and security issues,” he said.
Need for ASM formalisation
Dr Karikari noted that LSM contributed to macro-economic objectives and so leveraging the economic complementarities between LSM and ASM was required to improve total mining sector contribution to shared prosperity.
“If sustained awareness creation is undertaken and if alternative livelihood opportunities are created, coupled with the identification of suitable areas for prospecting, and if operators are organised into cooperatives and assisted with extension services.”
“If the rule of law is allowed to operate then jobs will be created and sustainable livelihood of mining communities assured, then illegal and irresponsible mining would be curbed and the environment protected and sanity brought into the mining sector, resulting in ultimately poverty alleviation and wealth creation,” he stated as the theory of change.
The Executive Director of the TWN, Dr Yao Graham, said for a longer time, policy, design of institutions and allocation of resources have tended to favour LSM because of the historic focus on attracting foreign investment and earning foreign exchange as a result of exporting minerals of interest
He noted ASM had been associated with the negatives; pollution of rivers, forest degradation and so even though it was the biggest employment sector in the mining sector and makes the biggest contribution to local livelihood, the public mind has not tended to see this.
“Even as we supported the campaign against effect of illegal mining on the environment, a blanket eye on all mining including those with licenses is a collective punishment. The government could have declared an emergency to anchor the processes that were set in motion that involved very sweeping measures for people whose human rights were violated in the course of dealing with the big problem,” he stated.
He said the mindset of public policy always seeing people living in mineral- endowed lands as a force need to change and they should be the people with which to start a strategy to develop the ASM sector to find its proper place in development.
The General Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners (GNASSM), Mr Godwin Armah, said the association will continue to deepen the formalisation of the ASM sub-sector through self-regulation policy, which hinges in five pillars namely education, engineering, enforcement, empowerment and attitudinal change.
“Tackling illegal mining is a shared responsibility. When stakeholders collaborate well, we will achieve the extraordinary.The government should support the ASM sector like it does for the large-scale operators,” he said.