By Richmond Yeboah (PhD)
Lecturer, Department of Tourism Management
Cape Coast Technical University
Last Wednesday, the Standardbearer of the New Patriotic Party and Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia outlined his vision for Ghana in a Lecture dubbed “Ghana’s Next Chapter”
As a Tourism, Environment and Development Scholar, I was very keen to hear him speak about his proposal to support small scale mining and the fight against illegal mining if given the mandate to lead Ghana. This is simply because, military interventions since 1989 have not solved the problem of illegal gold mining. In addition, the destruction of forests and water bodies is a threat to ecotourism and sustainable development in Ghana.
To take you back, the first government intervention to deal with illegal gold mining was the legalisation of small scale mining in 1989, Small Scale Gold Mining Law, PNDC Law, L.I 218. Unfortunately, the law could not deal with illegal gold mining.
In 2006, government launched ‘Operation Flush Out’ to deal with illegal miners. This was a nationwide military exercise to flush out illegal miners who were expanding to legal mining sites. Again, this did not resolve illegal mining (Hilson et al, 2007; Yeboah, 2023; 2022).
Furthermore, in 2013, the government launched a 5-member Interministerial Taskforce to clamp down illegal miners. Over 4,500 Chinese illegal miners were arrested by the military and deported. Several shelters and equipment of these illegal miners were destroyed (Boafo et al, 2019). The situation did not change and became worse (Yeboah, 2023).
Also in 2018, in response to the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, President Akufo-Addo launched the Operation Vanguard, a Joint Military and Police Taskforce made up of over 400 men. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Innovation and Technology in 2019 also set up a 64 member Galamstop to support Operation Vanguard. Over 1,000 illegal miners were arrested and hundreds of equipment seized and others burnt (Aidoo, 2016, Botchwey et al, 2019 & Yeboah, 2023).
In terms of legislations, apart from the 1989 PNDC Law, there is Article 269 of the 1992 Constitution which establishes the Minerals Commission. There is also the Minerals and Mining Act 1993 (Act 450), Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) as amended by Minerals and Mining Act 2015 (Act 900) and Minerals and Mining Act 2019 (Act 995). We also have the Minerals and Mining Regulations 2012, 2018, and 2020. The latest intervention being the introduction of Community Mining Scheme.
All the above regulations and interventions involving the use of military have failed. There is thus, the need to find alternative solutions to the fight against illegal gold mining.
One of the challenges to the recent unsuccessful attempts to end illegal mining is the involvement of Chinese nationals. This is fast destroying our forests and water resources because of the use of heavy machines.
Chinese collaborators provide equipment and financial support to Ghanaian small scale and illegal miners. Without them, Ghanaian miners may not have the resources to effectively mine. This makes it difficult to fight Chinese involvement in illegal mining.
Ending illegal mining therefore, requires a different approach from the use of the military and burning of excavators. Dr. Bawumia’s proposals, thus, appear to offer solutions to this menace except to say that he failed to underline how relevant laws would be enforced to ensure strict adherence.
Nevertheless, Dr. Bawumia’s proposals seem to support some recommendations contained in a couple of my works and other scholarly works on illegal mining. For example, I and other scholars have made the following recommendations in the past:
a. build strong collaboration between government and all stakeholders.
b. properly plan and coordinate programmes aimed at dealing with illegal mining.
c. empower communities to protect their lands against illegal miners.
d. support small scale miners with funding
e. enforce relevant laws without fear or favour.
f. build the capacity of local miners to understand sustainable mining
On the other hand, Dr. Bawumia proposes the following measures to ameliorate the problems associated with small scale mining in Ghana.
i. decentralise the Minerals Commission (MINCOM) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
ii. establish District Mining Committees to issue temporary licences
iii. establish Minerals Development Bank to provide small scale miners, access to finance
iv. introduce vocational and skills training programmes to build the capacity of small scale miners
v. regulate the small scale mining sector to promote sustainable practices.
As indicated earlier, governments over the years have made attempts to regulate the small scale mining sector through the use of the military, enactment of laws and policies such as Community Mining Schemes. These have not provided solutions to illegal mining. Our forests and water resources are being destroyed because past interventions lacked the involvement of key stakeholders including local chiefs. They failed to provide funding support to small scale miners. Enforcement of mining laws has been weak and influenced by politics.
In my view, Dr. Bawumia’s proposals as enumerated above are a shift from old interventions. Decentralising and resourcing MINCOM and EPA, the creation of District Mining Committees to regulate temporary licences, capacity building programmes for local miners and the provision of funding support to small scale miners will go a long way to reduce activities of illegal mining. Hence, protecting forest and water resources to attain sustainable development.