Friday, June 14, 2013

No small scale mining for foreign nationals in Ghana

Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast has been a major supplier of gold to world commodity markets.  After South Africa, Ghana is the largest supplier of gold out of Africa and political stability has made the country an attractive investment destination. The gold rush has not been without its fair share of irregularities. Recent weeks have seen Ghana’s gold industry overshadowed by the arrest of over 100 illegal Chinese gold miners among other nationalities.
According to Kofi Bentil, Vice President of local think tank, IMANI Ghana, the miners were rounded up for breaking the law not on the basis of their nationality.
“Firstly on breaking immigration laws, secondly for working in the country without relevant permits, thirdly for operating in an area specifically reserved for Ghanaians and fourthly they have done acts which have destroyed the environment in Ghana. Because of these acts they are either being processed for repatriation to China or for prosecution in Ghana”
The miners are currently out on bail and some are in the process of being repatriated to China.
Former illegal mining sites are often characterised by land that is beyond rehabilitation due to the extent of the damage. The abandoned open mine shafts have collected water and become breeding ground for parasites. The irresponsible mining operations also caused the contamination of drinking water sources in communities where access to safe water was already a challenge.
Though there has been outcry over the unfair treatment of the Chinese miners, Ghanaians who conduct mining without the necessary permits or cause environmental damage would be prosecuted in the same manner. Mr Bentil believes the small scale mining sector in Ghana will not grow in the foreseeable future if government is not at the forefront of empowering Ghanaians with the ability to defend what is rightfully theirs.
However, the Chinese miners in question acquired the land they were operating on from Ghanaians who either sold their mining concessions in full or in part. This is due to either the lack of interest in mining on the part of Ghanaians or  the need for quick returns.
 Mr Bentil says, “any individual, Ghanaian or foreign who operates outside the stipulated mining policy and breaks the law in any way, will be equally prosecuted.”
“The Ghanaian policy on small scale mining clearly states that no foreign national may conduct artisanal mining under any circumstances. Even if these Chinese regularize their stay in Ghana and gain work permits, they will not be allowed to own any small scale mining permit and licenses. The only way they can get involved in small scale mining is if they are employed by a Ghanaian small scale miner.” Mr Bentil reiterated.
“The capital intensive nature of mining is of no importance in small scale mining. All you need is a shovel and you can operate a small mine,” said Mr Bentil when asked what government and financial institutions were doing to avail capital to turn small scale mines into lucrative operations.

The impact of artisanal mining in Ghana is said to be quite significant. For every direct job in mining, about 10 others are created in side stream activities. Small scale mining contributed 9% of total gold production in 2000 and by 2010 the contribution had risen to 23%, with over a million Ghanaians directly dependent on ASM for their livelihoods.

Listen to interview here

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