28 January 2013

Ghana: Foreigners and Small-Scale Mining


The Minister-Designate of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, has vowed to flush out all foreigners involved in small-scale mining, popularly known as galamsey, if Parliament approves his nomination.

Addressing the Appointments Committee last Friday, Alhaji Inusah said galamsey operations are reserved under our laws for Ghanaians, but unfortunately, non-Ghanaians have flooded the sector, leaving havoc in their wake, promising that a new policy would be put in place to monitor the activities of all galamsey operators in the country.

He noted: "The galamsey menace is one that everybody appears to be worried about, and there is a cause to worry, because they spoil the forest, pollute our water bodies and cause environmental challenges. They could be a catalyst to the resource curse, and that is why government has said small-scale mining must be the preserve of Ghanaians.

"It is important for us to embark on a vigorous information and education campaign to ensure that Ghanaians who want to engage in small-scale mining have an opportunity to do so within the laws of the country.

"We, as a ministry responsible for that sector, will be able to monitor the activities of galamsey operations. We will make the system of registration less cumbersome for citizens who want to undertake the venture, so they successfully do the small-scale mining legally. Foreigners are not by law entitled to any piece within small-scale mining."

Good talk. But, The Chronicle hopes it is not just sweet talk to entice Parliament to give him the nod to clinch the political headship of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

But a number of questions arise: If the law is so clear on who and who can engage in small-scale mining in the country, why did Alhaji Inusah's predecessors seemingly turn a blind eye and allow foreigners into galamsey operations? Were they settled by the foreigners or ordered from above to ignore our law? If so, what makes Alhaji Inusah so sure that he could resist the inducements or disobey superior directives?

The Chronicle also gets the suggestion that because they are Ghanaians, local galamsey operators would be allowed to leave craters in our forests, pollute our waters, and seed environmental challenges. That would be most unfortunate.

We hope the impression that indigene galamsey miners could be a law unto themselves is due to lack of details of the new law to govern galamsey operations, and that when the new policy does come out, it would include measures to ensure that they restore the environment before they leave their old sites for new ones.

The Chronicle wishes the incoming Lands and Natural Resources Minister well. We hope he will be able to actualise his vow to sanitise the small-scale mining sector. We assure him that we will be watching him; we will praise him for his commendable actions, and chastise him for the condemnable ones.

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