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Minerals Commission advocates integrated approach to artisanal mining

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi & Lucy Mensah
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The Assistant Manager of small-scale mining at the Minerals Commission (MC), Mr Nelson Ahedor, has called for the active engagement and commitment of all stakeholders to improve artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the country.

He said while Ghana might have made appreciable progress in dealing with issues in the sector, a lot more remained to be done, especially in the areas of illegal mining and environmental management.

“An integrated approach involving all relevant stakeholders is needed to address the complex challenges of ASM which is a significant sub-sector providing livelihood for millions,” he stated at a media workshop in Accra on ‘Responsible Practices in the SSM Sector,’ organised by Solidaridad West Africa (SWA), a civil society organisation. 

Challenges
He noted that although the ASM had contributed significantly to poverty reduction and stimulated economic growth in the local communities, contributed 39 per cent (1.66 million ounce) of total gold production in 2016 and total diamond (173,863 carats), it faced a lot of challenges.

These include, the lack of geological information, which forces ASMs to operate by trial and error, resulting in frequent abandonment of sites and concessions; and perceived complexity of licensing processes.

Mr Ahedor indicated that the lack of access to finance encouraged dealings with foreigners, coupled with the connivance of some chiefs, landowners and opinion leaders who allowed them operate in remote areas.

“Generally insufficient mineable land available to prospective ASMs, hence the encroachment on large scale concessions. Mining in unauthorised areas (river bodies, forest reserves, existing concessions) and illegal mining persist,” he said.

As part of strategies to transform the sector, he indicated that, the Minerals and Mining Policy (MMP) reiterated the importance of the ASM and that it was reserved for Ghanaians and that the government would continue to ensure the use of appropriate, safe and affordable technologies in ASM.

“Key activities of the strategic framework developed in collaboration with stakeholders to address the challenges in ASM including geological investigation. “Currently,150 areas covering about 6,000 km2 have been blocked out for licensing to ASMs and nine of such areas (350 sqkm) have been investigated for licensing to ASMs,” he said.

Others include, alternative livelihood projects through which 23,000 acres of oil palm plantation in five communities in the Western Region of Ghana have been established.

A similar project is underway in the Central Region of Ghana. So far, about 10,000 acres has been established.

Environmental Assessment
A Chief Programme Officer at the Mining Department of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ms Justine Shirley Seyire Dzadzra, explained that environment in the Ghanaian context included natural resources, socio-cultural and economic conditions and the institutional conditions in which decisions were made.

She said environmental assessment involved the process for the orderly and systematic identification, prediction and evaluation of the likely environmental, socio-economic, and cultural and health impacts of an undertaking and the mitigation and management of those effects.

Mrs Dzadzra cited the type of ore deposit / method of exploitation processing methodology/ technology in use, access to geological information and mechanisation as some of the factors affecting environmental degradation.

She stated that the strategies adopted by the agency to deal with challenges in the ASM sector included the creation of 17 new area offices (nine in mining hotspots), draft checklist developed for ASM, complete decentralisation of ASM permitting process and sensitisation and provision of technical advice.

The rest are complaints investigations (plus creation of client services), new approaches in monitoring and the use of technology (drones) and satellite imagery.

“ASM is a significant sub-sector of the mineral sector. The environmental degradation caused by the sub sector resulted in the imposition of a ban on ASM. Currently, the sector is undergoing a restructuring to transform the sub sector into a positively vibrant one for national development,” she said.

The workshop
Solidaridad West Africa (SWA) has been implementing a gold programme aimed at promoting responsible practices in the SSM sector in Ghana since 2012.

To date, it has supported 23 small-scale miners and 47 SSM communities in the Western, Eastern and Ashanti regions.

The workshop was to deepen collaboration with the media in support of efforts by government and operators in the sector towards the development of a resilient and sustainable SSM sector.    

The Country Representative of SWA, Ms Suzan Yemidi, said the organisation, through its producer support programme helped farmers, miners and manufacturers in developing countries to make the transition to sustainable production.

She noted that the world population, projected to reach nine billion in 2050, could only be fed if the agricultural sector made a transition to smart and sustainable land use and that economic issues (productivity, quality and efficiency), social issues (child labour, workers’ rights, living income) and environmental issues (water, less energy, rational use pesticides, waste, re-use) and optimisation of land use were the start of the solution.

According to her, increased production must meet growing demand, but with fewer negative consequences for people and the environment.

“Forests are no longer cut down and additional land is no longer needed because the existing agricultural land is being used more efficiently. An inclusive economy is needed. One in which people can participate fully including smallholders and women,” she said. — GB