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Opinions Mon, 6 Mar 2017

Peter Amewu: A penitentiary is obdurate criminals rightful abode!

This is not a missive intended to censure the current Honourable Minister of Lands and Natural Resources for the mess in the small-scale mining sector, far from it. But it rather seeks to remind the minister to thwart the illegal mining being carried out by the foreign infiltrators and their Ghanaian counterparts.

Undoubtedly, the influx of genuine tourists is good for the economy. However, what we should not be doing is opening our borders widely to individuals who harbour ulterior motives.

I have no doubt whatsoever that some Chinese immigrants secured authentic visas to enter Ghana, but I am not sure whether if the Ghana Embassy in China did grant visas to all the Chinese immigrants to come and undertake mining in Ghana.

In any case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must endeavour to investigate the granting of visas by the Ghana Embassy in China, per the influx of illegal Chinese miners in Ghana.

It is also incumbent on the Ghana Immigration Service to put ‘tabs on the illegal Chinese who are bent on laying their hands on our natural resources illegally. This is indeed a serious issue, and must therefore be treated with all the seriousness it deserves.

I must also venture to stress that our relations with China must not and cannot be the standing block in our efforts to bring the offending Chinese illegal miners to book.

We should not lose sight of the fact that subject to subsections (1) of 1989 small-scale mining laws (PNDCL 218) and (2) of section 75 of the Minerals and Mining Law, 1986 (PNDCL 153) and amended Act 2006(Act 703), no licence for small-scale gold mining operation shall be granted to any person who is not a citizen of Ghana.

Thus, in theory, any person who without a licence granted by the regulatory bodies and chooses to undertake any small-scale gold mining operation contrary to (subsection 1) of section 1 of small-scale mining law; or acts in contravention of any other provision of small-scale mining law in respect of which an offence has not been prescribed, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.

More meaningfully, however, where a foreigner is convicted of an offence under this Law he, shall after paying the fine or serving any imprisonment imposed on him, be liable to deportation under section 13 of the Aliens Act, 1963 (Act 160).

In practice, though, I am not at all against foreigners who want to go about their business in Ghana legally, because I, like any other Ghanaian migrant, have lived amenably, worked and schooled in the United Kingdom, so I will be the first person to show reciprocity by stretching my hands and welcoming other immigrants into my country of birth.

Having said that, my understanding is: ‘If you are in Rome, you must do what the Romans do’. In other words, you must be prepared to conform to the laws of the land at all times.

Take, for instance, even though I have the legal right to live and blissfully eke out an income in the United Kingdom, if I chose to commit a reprehensible crime, in theory, I would be incarcerated and sent back to my country of birth after serving my term. With this in mind, how many discerning people would dare?

It is for this reason that I have been condemning and execrating the Chinese and other illegal immigrants shenanigans, -- illegally mining the natural resources in our countryside and in the process destroying our lands and water bodies.

Obviously, the illegal miners are taking advantage of the absence of monitoring and enforcement of the existing laws and regulations. If that was not the case, how on earth could foreigners seize our countryside, steal our gold and destroy the environment?

We (Ghanaians) have enacted expedient laws, albeit the monitoring and enforcement are carried out with a stark perfunctory, or often non-existent.

“The Chinese never give up. They will never give up their pursuits. Whatever they pursue, they become experts and innovators in that field. They are never bogged down by failure. For them, failure simply means another shot to be successful,” said a social commentator.

“It seems some Chinese immigrants come across as aggressive, indocile and somehow disrespectful, when they come to mirthful Africa, -- no offence intended though.

“They wield guns and would fire at anyone who dares to confront them to stop mining”.

Given the Chinese immigrants stubbornness, I venture to suggest it would take a massive leadership in order to curb the illegal mining activities in our countryside.

Please, do not accuse me of sensationalising the problem confronting Ghanaians. For, we are probably dealing with criminals who have been released from prison in China, and have made their way to a “paradise” called Ghana.

Obviously, we have laws which govern the small scale mining in Ghana. So why are we dragging our feet in enforcing such laws?

It is, however, important to note that a lot of organisations are culpable in this instance, --for approaching their duties lackadaisically.

For example, we have Ghana Minerals Commission whose responsibilities include the enforcement of the rules and regulations--the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703).

The Act vividly requires any person wanting to engage in any form of mining to obtain the requisite licence from the Minister responsible for Mines.

What is more, 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.

The Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act 703) thus places a duty on the aforementioned organisations to work in valence to ensure that the prospective Miners adhere to various regulations.

So, with such synergistic policies in place, why the mess in the small scale mining sector?

Your guess is as good as mine. In practice, there is no accountability.

I am afraid; I’m beginning to suspect the governing or regulatory bodies are not up to the task.

Take, for example, according to the mining laws, “no Small Scale Mining operations will be permitted within 100 meters of any water body”. However, this has not always been observed.

Obviously, it is on record that the Chinese immigrants are denuding our countryside, and haven’t Ghana Minerals Commission heard?

Ironically, Ghana Minerals Commission insists that whoever contravenes any of the provisions of the Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) shall be sanctioned and prosecuted in accordance with this Act and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1960 (Act 30).

However expedient the laws and regulations on mining, the Minerals Commission seems oblivious to the Chinese immigrants shenanigans in our countryside.

In sum, if, indeed, the Ghana Minerals Commission hasn’t heard what is going on, then I would like to point out that some recalcitrant immigrants are bent on despoiling our natural resources and in the process, destroying the environment.

So, go ahead and thwart the activities of the lunatic fringe of Chinese immigrants and any other illegal miners without delay.

K. Badu, UK.
Columnist: Badu, K