Apparently, politicians are known for their consuming desires for attention seeking and needless misinformation metastasizing.
So many of us were somehow on point to doubt 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).
It would be recalled that President Mahama held a meeting with the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, led by their President, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin at Flagstaff House some time in February 2013.
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.”
President Mahama went ahead and asserted 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.”
I must admit, back then, I was unsure of President Mahama’s promise to curb the menace of illegal mining. However, upon a carefully considered reflection, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Clearly, my concern back then stemmed from the fact that it took President Mahama and his government too long to acknowledge that small-scale mining is reserved for only Ghanaians.
Apparently, back then, his apologists were arguing that President Mahama only assumed office a few months leading to his meeting with the Chiefs of eastern region , hence cannot be blamed solely for the putrid in the small-scale mining sector.
Nevertheless, my bone of contention at the time stemmed from the fact that, he, (President Mahama), was the head of the economic committee in the Mills’ administration. So, my argument was why did President Mahama allow the foreigners to forcibly dig our mineral resources, terrorise our rural dwellers and destroy the environment, up to that time?
It is also worth noting that the regulating bodies have not been doing what is expected of them in the fight against the illegal mining which is having a deleterious effect on our environment.
It is pretty obvious that the regulators have failed to regulate the small-scale mining sector. So, it was heart-warming when President Mahama promised to circumscribe the activities of the foreign illegal miners.
Nevertheless, President Mahama has failed to upbraid the derelict regulators of the chaotic small scale mining sector. For he has rather been endorsing the usual Ghanaian mantra: ‘hire to retire’ (stay in the post regardless of abysmal performances).
Needless to say, the right antidote for any serious and committed leadership was to resort to ‘hire to fire’ (dismissal upon poor performances).
Of course, small-scale mining is economically viable. However, at present, the way its being regulated, its ill-favoured,--it does not look promising.
Even though by law, only Ghanaians are allowed to obtain mining licenses for small-scale mining operations, “thousands” of Chinese immigrants and other foreigners are working illegally in the small scale mining sector in Ghana, while the sector regulator—Ghana Minerals Commission looks on.
Obviously, the involvement of the Chinese and other foreigners has changed the dynamics of small-scale mining. For it has been well documented that the foreign illegal miners use bulldozers, pay loaders and really heavy machinery.
The illegal foreign miners 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 however conniving with the Chinese and other foreign illegal miners to ‘steal’ our natural resources.
It must be mentioned that reliable sources have revealed that some Ghanaians often transfer the mining concessions, or would secure plots of land and enter into partnership with the Chinese and other foreigners who have funds to bring in the bulldozers and all the other big equipment. However, small scale mining operations are not reserved for foreigners according to the 1989 small scale mining law-PNDC Law (218).
It is also a public record that some Chiefs are in the habit of conniving with the foreign illegal miners to dig our natural resources illegally. 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, --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 pose then is: ‘Why no offending Chiefs have since been brought to book? Are they above the law?
In my candid opinion, some of the Chiefs are colluding with the ‘criminals’ to steal our natural resources. Thus, it would only be fair to Ghanaians if such incompliant 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. For 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 foreign 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.
Obviously, President Mahama has not shown true leadership in the fight to halt the activities of the illegal miners. Let us therefore remind President Mahama that the 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.