Are You Sure, President Mahama?

Fri, 15 Feb 2013 Source: Badu, K

All over the world, Politicians are known for their ceaseless metastasizing, or insatiable cravings for attention. With this in mind, doubtful individuals like me (the author), can be excused for doubting President Mahama on his declaration to bring to a halt the activities of foreign illegal miners. See: “We'll deal with foreigners in 'galamsey' - President Mahama”; Ghanaian Times/Ghanaweb.com 13/02/2013.

According to the aforesaid article, President Mahama held a meeting with the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, led by their President, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin at Flagstaff House. During the interactions, President Mahama declared that : “The government will take firm steps to stop foreigners from engaging in small-scale mining activities in the country.”

He said that "small scale mining is the exclusive preserve of the people, and as such the government will not allow the industry to be flooded by foreigners.”

Indeed, I am astonished, and largely befuddled about the preceding declaration by President Mahama. First, why has it taken President Mahama and his government that long to acknowledge that small-scale mining is reserved for only Ghanaians?

Yes, the adulators would argue that President Mahama only assumed office a few months ago, therefore he is not responsible for the ‘putrid’ in the small-scale mining sector. Nevertheless, my bone of contention stems from the fact that, he, (President Mahama), has been a pith and venerator in the NDC administration for some time now. So, why has President Mahama allowed the foreigners to forcibly dig our mineral resources, terrorise our rural dwellers and destroy the environment, up to this time?

And, based on what President Mahama said to the visiting chiefs regarding the illegal foreign miners, I will dare say that some ‘overseers’ are not doing what is expected of them. That is, they have failed to regulate the small-scale mining sector. In this case, what are you going to do about this, President Mahama?

Are you going to stick to the usual Ghanaian mantra: ‘hire to retire’ (stay in the post regardless of abysmal performances), or you would bring in ‘hire to fire’ (dismissal upon poor performances)?

Of course, small-scale mining is economically viable. Nonetheless, at present, the way its being regulated, its ill-favoured; it does not look promising. For instance, by law, only Ghanaians are allowed to obtain mining licenses for small-scale mining operations, nevertheless, “thousands” of Chinese immigrants are working in the small scale mining sector in Ghana, while the sector regulator—Ghana Minerals Commission looks on nonchalantly.

Undeniably, the involvement of the Chinese and other foreigners has changed the dynamics of small-scale mining.

Paradoxically, the foreign illegal miners use bulldozers, pay loaders and really heavy machinery. They have in fact mechanized artisanal mining and as a result the level of environmental devastation is enormous.

That said, some greedy and obnoxious Ghanaians are conniving with the Chinese illegal miners to ‘steal’ our natural resources. Some Ghanaians would either transfer the mining concessions, or would secure plots of land and enter into partnership with the Chinese who have funds to bring in the bulldozers and all the other big equipment.

In the same vein, some Chiefs are in the habit of conniving with the foreign illegal miners. The recalcitrant and unpatriotic Chiefs would allocate mining lands to the illegal miners; knowing it is unlawful for any individual to sanction small-scale mining, needless to say, the Ghana Minerals Commission has the exclusive right to do so.

If some Chiefs are indeed giving out lands for illegal mining without the Ghana Minerals Commission’s approval, the question one may ask then is: ‘Why no offending Chiefs have since been brought to book? Are they above the law?

In my candid opinion, the uncaring Chiefs are colluding with the ‘criminals’ to steal our natural resources. Thus, it would only be fair to Ghanaians if such offending Chiefs are prosecuted accordingly.

Obviously, there are laws which regulate the small- scale mining sector in Ghana. So why are the authorities not enforcing such laws? I will dare say that a number of organisations are complicit with the mess in the small-scale mining sector.

For example, we have Ghana Minerals Commission whose responsibilities include the enforcement of the rules and regulations—the 1989 small-scale mining law (PNDC L218) and the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703). Both Acts clearly require any person wanting to engage in any form of mining to obtain the requisite licence from the Minister responsible for Mines.”

Moreover, the holders of mineral rights and licences are by law required to obtain the necessary approvals and permits from the appropriate quarters, such as Environmental Protection Agency; Forestry Commission, where forests are involved; and Water Resources Commission, where water is involved, before the Miners can commence operation.

More importantly, the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act 703), places a duty on the aforementioned organisations to work collaboratively to ensure that the existing miners’ and the prospective Miners adhere to various regulations.

With such expedient policies in place, why the mess in the small scale mining sector?

At the moment, it appears that nobody is policing the small scale mining sector. It is apparent that the people who are in receipt of the small scale mining concessions are not privy to the laws which govern the sector. This explains why Ghanaians who are in receipt of small-scale mining concessions transfer the licences to their Chinese minions. It is a worrying situation. Indeed, some people are not doing what is expected of them.

For example, even though, the small scale mining laws prohibit the use of large explosives, Chinese miners have been allowed to use unstructured methods, and at the same time supplying large explosive, rock crushers and other machines to local miners.

I strongly believe that enforcement of the laws on small-scale mining with a vivid distinction of what forms acceptable and unacceptable mining practices is the way forward. And at the same time, strengthening and resourcing regulatory bodies, such as the Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory institutions to improve the discharge of their responsibilities.

Anyway, discerning Ghanaians would remain patiently, and watch if President Mahama would be true to his declaration.

K. Badu, UK

Columnist: Badu, K