A Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Mines, Ms Naana Eyiah, has urged women and girls who engage in illegal mining, popularly called “galamsey”, to stop the practice and take advantage of alternative livelihood programmes by the government in mining communities.
She said apart from the oil palm plantation project that saw the distribution of more than three million oil palm seedlings to residents in mining communities, the government was rolling out a skills training initiative targeted at women and girls.
“We know that women and children are the most affected by illegal mining so we want to support you to acquire skills in soap making, tailoring and other small-scale businesses so that you will stop galamsey and make a meaningful living for yourselves.
“We will also support all girls who dropped out of school because of teenage pregnancy and financial challenges to get back to school and achieve their dreams instead of engaging in galamsey,” she said.
The minister stated this on a one-week sensitisation tour of mining communities in the Western, Western North and Central regions.
The tour formed part of the roll out of the second phase of the alternative livelihood programme for women and girls in mining areas.
She visited Enchi, Nkatieso, Breman, Brofoyedru, Sefwi and other places in the Aowin, Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekawi and the Upper Denkyira West municipalities respectively where she interacted with residents and urged them to stop galamsey.
Ms Eyiah engaged traditional authorities and other stakeholders on the need to do sustainable mining, particularly with the coming of the community mining programme.
She cautioned the residents in those communities that they risked spending between 15 to 25 years in prison if they were caught in galamsey business.
At Chirano Mines Ghana Limited (CMGL) located at Sefwi-Wiawso, the deputy minister urged the mining company to prioritise employment and building of the capacity of women to play key roles in the sector.
She noted that since women and children were the most affected by mining activities, it was important not to leave them behind in terms of employment.
The CMGL, which started operating in 2005, is owned by the Kinross Gold Corporation, a Canadian mining entity, with the government having 10 per cent equity.
Since 2005, the company has made investment totalling $12 million in education, health, roads, human resource development and other areas in the host community.
It currently has a work force of more than 2,070 people, 1020 of which are permanent employees.
Of the employees, 17 per cent are females, while males constitute 83 per cent.
Additionally, 45 per cent of the total employees are from the host communities, with 54 per cent being Ghanaians from other parts of the country.
The deputy minister described the statistics on employment as commendable, saying it was an excellent reflection of the local content agenda being pursued by the government.
"I am highly impressed by what I have seen here and will definitely take the message to the sector minister. However, I want you to improve on the percentage of women employees to about 40 per cent because that is how we can have inclusive development," she said.
Ms Eyiah also urged mining companies to invest more in the education of females by rolling out scholarship schemes for girls.
The Vice-President of CGML, Mr Adriano Sobreira, said the company had a deliberate policy to gradually empower women by building their capacity to take up key positions in all aspects of the company's operations.
He said the CGML had constituted a Women in Mining Committee (WMC) to oversee the welfare of females in the company.
Mr Sobreira said more emphasis would be placed on the education of girls and also gave an assurance that the company would collaborate with other stakeholders to ensure that the 40 per cent target for women employees was achieved.