Why small-scale mining cannot be banned outrightly – Martin Ayisi

Martin Ayisi CEO of Minerals Commission, Martin Ayisi

Mon, 5 Jun 2023 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

The Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Martin Ayisi, has expressed his concerns about the proposal to ban all mining operations including small-scale mining, as a measure to curb illegal mining otherwise known as ‘galamsey’ practices in Ghana.

In recent months, there has been a growing public concern regarding the environmental impact of illegal mining activities. As a result, there have been calls for the banning of all mining operations, including small-scale mining, to curb illegal practices. The aim is to facilitate the restoration of depleted forests, allowing them to regenerate their vegetation, and to enable water bodies to recover their previous state.

Considering these arguments, the CEO of the Commission believes that the sector is too resourceful to be banned uprightly.

Speaking on Asempa FM’s Ekosiisen, the CEO argues that there are about 3 million Ghanaians whose source of livelihood depends on the existence of small-scale mining and banning it will have a devastating effect on these people.

“There are about 3 million Ghanaians whose source of livelihood depends on small-scale mining across about 13 regions. Let me break it down then you can explain the source of livelihood to Ghanaians. As I try to explain livelihood, I am referring to both direct and indirect employment. You go to places like Dunkwa, Tarkwa, Diaso, Prestea, Bogoso, and Wassa Akyempin, wherever there is large-scale mining, you will find small-scale mining there. They are just around the large scale,” he said.

He continued to explain the complex dynamics of employment and livelihood in the small-scale mining sector which makes it the number one reason why the sector cannot be banned uprightly.

“If you have about let’s say 40-50 people with licenses who work at the mine who are direct small-scale employees, that is he goes to the pit to operate as an excavator operator or he handles the gold catcher, etc., all these people are directly involved. Now, Aunty Mansa who gets up to come and set up a food joint at the small-scale site for workers who work in the pit to get food to eat, we count her as part of employment, but she will fall under indirect employment. So, for such a person, her livelihood depends on the mine. So, when the mine collapses, Aunty Mansa who sells food around the mine, you have deprived her of her livelihood, so she is also part of the 3 million. The person Aunty Mansa gets her cassava from is also part of the supply chain. So, it’s a whole value chain…that is what I mean by livelihood,” he added.

Given the above, Martin Ayisi believes that banning the sector as a measure to curb illegal mining will rather collapse the small-scale mining industry in Ghana.

“So, if people get up and say let’s ban small scale, I find it quite unfortunate. But I don’t blame them because they have this information. For example, the entire Tarkwa township and everything that goes on there is associated with mining. The market in the township serves as the shipping centre for many of the things small-scale miners use in their operations. So, if the mines in the community collapse, Tarkwa town goes dead. The mines there are a source of livelihood, that is how I want people to see it, not just employment.

“There are traders in the Tarkwa market who trade with the miners every time. It is because the small-scale miners are working and mining is circulating. If you take out the university and collapse the two mining companies there, that is the end of Tarkwa, it will only exist in name. Prestea town grew out of mining, the entire town is mining. So, that is the number one contribution of small-scale mining. Not less than 10% of Ghana’s population can trace their livelihood to mining,” he continued.

The CEO of the Minerals Commission, Martin Ayisi, further shared light on the other benefits of the small-scale sector to the economy of Ghana.

“The Large-scale mining companies export their gold. Apart from those polished jewellery imported from Turkey and Dubai; all other jewellery we use locally comes from a small scale. So, another contribution is that is a source of raw gold for the jewellery industry. So, when you collapse small-scale mining, you have collapsed the jewellery industry as well. Unless you import from Turkey and Dubai.

Additionally, now, the government is pursuing ‘Gold-for-Oil’. The government buys the gold from small-scale miners. Last year, the receipt was over 1 billion dollars,” he pointed out.

The small-scale mining industry, the CEO went on to say, helps the local economy grow.

“If you take out mining, we will not have Tarkwa, Bibiani, Obuasi. When the gold mine in Obuasi, went down, you saw what happened. Business activities in the region collapsed.

“Additionally, small-scale mining is a precursor to large-scale exploration. So, when two or more small-scale mining companies begin operations in a region, then you get the large-scale miners coming around to also, explore the area. Sometimes you can get the large-scale buying the area and paying off the small-scale miners or they reach other agreements,” he argued.

Martin Ayisi further highlighted the obligation of small-scale mining companies to repatriate 80% of their earnings back to the country, as required by regulations which become and source of revenue for the government.

“Then also, the receipts come back into the country. As required, as a small-scale mining company, if you export, 80% of your earnings go back to the country. And not less than a third of Ghana’s gold comes from small scale. So, unless you don’t appreciate these things or downplay them. It would be wrong on the part of anybody to say let us stop small-scale mining. It will not work.

However, amid growing concerns over the pollution of water bodies and the disruption of the forest reserves by the activities of illegal miners ‘galamseyers’, the CEO urged the public to rally around the fight to restore the lost resources to their previous state and not call for the upright banning of mining entirely in Ghana.

“I accept that rage and anger, when Ghanaians look at the water bodies and mounts pressure on the commission to ensure that the water is clean, I accept that, and I wish we all work to get the water back to what it was but don’t look at that and say we should stop it,” he stated.

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