February 12, 2016 | Accra: The Ghana Chamber of Mines is urging the government of Ghana to urgently turn its attention to the perennial incidents of illegal miners invading concessions of large scale mining companies particularly during election years. The situation has arisen again with the advent of illegal miners encroaching the bona fide concessions of large-scale mining companies.
“The country stands to lose heavily if the activities of the illegal miners are allowed to fester ahead of the election in November 2016. There is a clear and present danger to our environment and to Ghana’s economy as illegal miners fight large-scale mining companies for concessions the latter have obtained legally. This in itself breeds a sense of insecurity and fear among investors which will cause a slowdown in investment in the country’s minerals sectors” says the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, Mr Sulemanu Koney.
All the efforts instituted by the Minerals Commission complemented by that of the Chamber to attract investment into the minerals sector will come to naught if government does not put in place security measures to prevent an imminent loss of investor confidence in the country which comes with the risk of some companies cutting investments.
Over the years, mining companies have received support from the National Security Committee on Lands and Natural Resources in addressing the encroachment of their concessions by illegal miners. However, there are pockets of illegal miners that continue to encroach on the concessions of companies in spite of the interventions of the State.
This illegality deprives duly licensed companies of the opportunity to exploit the inherent mineral resources more safely and prudentially while it creates additional costs for the companies for rehabilitating the land so destroyed by the illegal miners. The consequences of this illegality are far-reaching. Pits excavated by illegal miners claim the lives of company employees as well as those of residents of host communities. The resultant destruction to the environment is immeasurable.
“Honestly, the country earns next to nothing from the activities of these illegal miners. Only a few unscrupulous individuals benefit from it. It is no secret that the government loses significant amounts of fiscal revenue every year as a result of such illegal mining activities. Apart from projecting a bad image for the entire mining sector, the repercussions to the environment are ominous. If the activities of the illegal miners are not nipped in the bud it would undermine Ghana’s efforts at attracting and sustaining the much needed investment into the mining industry,” he stated.
Companies such as AngloGold Ashanti – Obuasi Mine in recent weeks and Perseus Mining at Ayanfuri in recent months, have seen an escalation of activities of illegal miners on their concessions. These companies who employ thousands of Ghanaians are compelled to use all legal means to eject the illegal miners from their concessions with the help of the security apparatus. This has often resulted in violent confrontations leading to injuries and destruction of property.
AngloGold Ashanti has particularly been inundated by illegal miners contributing to its inability to attract investors to partner it to revamp the mine. The recent surge in illegal mining activities at the Obuasi mine has been violent, leading to the death of one of the company’s senior employees, and follows the withdrawal of the military that had been stationed at the mine. AngloGold Ashanti has as a result evacuated some of its employees for safety and security reasons. The illegal miners have remained on the mine. They have now worked their way to certain underground workings and are using explosives in the process.
The audaciousness of illegal miners in perpetrating the act despite the recently passed Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, which criminalises the act and ascribes punitive measures, is baffling to say the least. The Chamber is therefore calling on the government to crack the whip on illegal mining and make it an unattractive venture for all who engage in it.
The Chamber is also calling on the government to return the Military to AngloGold Ashanti, Obuasi to protect life and property on the mine in order to restore investor confidence and attract the necessary investment into the mining sector.
Chief Executive Officer
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The Ghana Chamber of Mines: Promoting environmentally and socially responsible mining in Ghana