27 July 2012

Ghana: Minerals Commission Wants Stiffer Punishments to Deter Illegal Miners

The Minerals Commission is proposing the amendment of the Mineral and Mining Act to ensure rigid punishment such as longer jail terms and confiscation of mining machinery to deter foreigners from engaging in illegal mining in the country.

Mr Ben Aryee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mineral's Commission, made this known at a news conference in Accra on Tuesday to react to the threat of foreigners in illegal mining in the country.

The event comes in the wake of the worrying news of the recent confrontation between some Chinese and residents of Manso Siena in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region over alleged illegal mining last week. The Chinese were said to have used guns to threaten the host community including their traditional authorities.

The key drivers of the proliferation of foreigners in illegal mining in the Ghana, he said, could be attributed to factors such as high gold prices and the connivance of some chiefs, landlords and opinion leaders with the foreigners to operate in remote areas.

"So far Chinese, Indians, Russians, Spaniards, Burkinabe's and other West Africans have been found involved in this illegal businesses."

Again, inadequate of regulations and enforcement of laws coupled with insufficient sanctions for mining illegally could be attributed to the menace.

Mr Aryee noted that menace was a threat to national security because it could lead to a reprisal attacks from local communities that may result in killing foreigners and could spark diplomatic dispute.

"Illegal mining has become such a menace to the country and its security that dealing with it decisively is no more an option but a must," he stressed.

While illegal mining had assumed national proportion, he maintained that a sustainable solution could only be achieved in insulation with residents of mining communities.

The CEO called on all stakeholders to get on board to fight the menace. Particularly, he said, traditional authorities, land owners and farmers must desist from apportioning land illegally to illegal miners but rather work with regulators to grant mining licences to ensure that the potential benefits were realised in an optimum manner.

Mr Aryee warned staff of the Commission who have been condoning illegal mining activities to desist from that or face the wrath of the Commission. He also expressed concerns about Ghanaians fronting for foreigners to acquire small scale mining licenses to refrain from such bad practice.

"We do not have a choice in this matter, the fight against illegal mining, especially with foreigners involved, is one we must win or else risk losing even our society."

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