The government has been asked to suspend small-scale mining until effective measures are put in place to protect the country’s forests, rivers, farmlands and environment from destruction.
This is because the country cannot continue to rely on infective measures in the mining sector that leads to massive environmental degradation, pollution of water bodies and health hazards.
Audrey Quaye, a Senior Advisor to Ghana Environmental Advocacy Group, a non-governmental organisation, who made the call in an interview with the Ghanaian Times, said “we must develop a sustainable mining model for Ghanaianoperators before they are certified and licensed to undertake community and small-scale mining.”
She suggested strict and effective regulation on mining, though the idea of local people being in the forefront of the sector and owning majority of concessionwere intended to improve the economy and create jobs.
“The State Mining Corporation mines were privatised. In the early 2000s other players such as Newmont Mining entered Ghana’s gold mining sector and licenses were issued to small scale mining companies and the small scale mining sector was reserved by law for Ghanaians, ”Ms Quaye, recalled.
She said despite the good intention, the time had come for the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Minerals Commission to partner the country’s universities, to develop a sustainable mining model, to deal with pollution of water bodies and environmental degradation, as a result of small scale mining.
Ms Quaye noted that the country earned 10 per cent of the value of minerals mined as royalty, which was very small compared to the value of the country’s minerals.
She said in 2019, Ghana was the largest producer of gold in the World, but asked “what does the country have to show for this? The mining towns are ran down with limited amenities for the residents.”
Ms Quaye noted that the introduction of small scale mining unfortunately led to the emergence of illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, adding that some small-scale miners used the same destructive methods as those of illegal miners.
She appealed to the government to focus on alternative sources of livelihoods such as agriculture, food processing, crafts and tourism, to accommodate the teaming youth engaging in illegal mining.
“They have caused tremendous damage to parts of the country’s land, farms and rivers, and lagoons. The polluted rivers have also had a negative impact on the health of people in affected communities,” Ms Quaye said.
He called on communities to ensure that plans for community mining projects were stopped until sustainable mining practices were put in place prior to certification and licensing.