Diverse have been mechanisms from all quarters to combat illegal mining in Ghana. The Community Mining Programme (CMP) launched during President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s first term proved to be a pivotal starting point to overcome the challenges created by illegal mining popularly known as ‘galamsey’. Unfortunately, this laudable initiative is hanging in the balance during a much-needed revived battle against the canker.
Government in recent weeks has had to reignite its efforts with Operation Halt II, an operation to discourage and ward off illegal miners on the Nation’s water bodies. Of the many directives which have opened up several conversations on tackling illegal mining activities, one that has least enjoyed public discourse is the Community Mining Programme.
Launched by President Akufo-Addo in July 2019 at Wassa Akropong in the Western Region, the CMP is a novel mining model aimed at formalizing mining in selected communities across the country. It is intended to curtail the underlying causes of unhealthy small-scale illegal mining. It’s a kind of mining provided for under sections 81-99 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act703).
Per the prescription within existing mining law, the scheme has been instituted solely for the benefit of Ghanaians, with particular emphasis on host mining communities. The government aims to create 16000 jobs nationwide through the scheme by legitimizing the participation of residents of host mining communities in small-scale mining.
During Akufo-Addo’s first term, the fight against galamsey was a flagship policy area. Complementarily, the Programme is to ensure “that mining will be done the right way, within the tenets of the law, and will not destroy our natural resources,” said President Akufo-Addo at the launch. Minerals Commission, in effect, blocked out several zones in each of the mining districts for this purpose, while some traditional authorities also provided land for the CMP.
Community Mining began earnestly in January 2020 in the Ashanti region at Adomanu in the Adansi North District, after the first pilot project at Bawdie-Dompim in the Wassa Amenfi East District with approximately 1000 workers. As of September 2020, Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources had issued 55 mining licenses to some communities; three licenses issued in Abosso in the Western Region, 22 licenses in Nsiana, Manso, and Nkwanta in the Ashanti region, six licenses in Tinga in the Savannah region, 17 licenses in Akoase in the Eastern region, and Mempehia in the Ahafo region with seven licenses.
The previously existing Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) then headed by Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng constructed two landing sites on River Pra at Beposo and River Ankobra at Axim. A total of 328 concessions in 16 mining districts have been demarcated, mapped, and uploaded onto the
GalamStop software- developed to monitor the activities of miners and the life cycle of mining and related licenses. Over 20,000 miners have registered and received their ID cards to participate in the CMP. Meanwhile, 2000 out of the 5000 registrants who trained at the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa had received their licenses to begin mining.
Stimulating wealth creation, promoting community involvement and linkages with other sectors of the economy from the core expectations of the Programme. Specifically, it seeks to, among others; have licensed community miners engage in lawful regulated mining activities in their vicinities to benefit from their God-given resources; ensure sustainable livelihoods; prevent wanton destruction of the environment; curb illegal small-scale mining in the country; and create 16,000 direct jobs nationwide. At least one community mine is expected to be set up in each of the mining districts in the country.
CMS is meant to be implemented in consultation and collaboration with relevant stakeholders at the community level, yet, some traditional authorities, such as the Okyenhene Osageyfo Amoatia Ofori Panin, overlord of Akyem Abuakwa, have recently denounced the scheme, saying they ought to be consulted before licenses are awarded such that their environments are protected.
Sadly, enforcement of the ban on all small-scale mining in 2017/18 was not strong enough, despite the deployment of security forces under Operation Vanguard. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) established by the government to clamp down on illegal small mining was dissolved by President Akufo-Addo. This came on the back of some seized excavators going missing amidst bribery allegations.
The lack of adequate funding and resourcing of oversight agencies such as the Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) – the body responsible for assaying and monitoring gold exports, further weakened Government’s efforts.
Galamsey: More Than Mining;
Gold is currently the most mined natural resource in Ghana and is said to represent up to 49 percent of the country’s exports, fetching more than US$8 billion of the country’s estimated US$59 billion worth of GDP. With the value of gold now quadruple of what it used to be about two decades ago, it has become a profitable source of revenue for multinational firms and small-scale miners –legal and otherwise.
Available data indicates that the Artisanal Small-scale mining sub-sector contributed about 36 percent of the total gold produced in Ghana in 2019. However, most of these small-scale miners remain informal and illegal, usually called “galamseyers”, with only less than 30 percent formally registered.
Reports indicate that by 2017, around 200,000 Ghanaians (estimated to be indirectly responsible for the upkeep of about three million people) subsisted on earnings from artisanal small-scale mining, which makes the practice an important source of families’ income, especially for ‘broke’ communities.
Substantial taxes of corporations’ revenue are huge derivatives to the state from mining in Ghana as in other parts of the globe, but they do not in the least compare to nor supersede the activity’s ensuing gruesome degradation of the environment, health, security, and economy, witnessed in the loss of farmlands, deforestation, water pollution, crime rates, and poverty.
Galamsey is reported to have cost the country about US$2.2 billion in 2016 in uncollected taxes alone, and an estimated US$250 million to recover lands and water bodies destroyed in the Western region. These costs, however, are exclusive of the attendant qualitative consequences.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Water Company reported a 50% loss of available water for treatment between 2008 and 2018, consequently cautioning against the persistence of illegal mining which could result in the importation of water into the country in the next decade.
Characteristically, most Galamseyers degrade lands without a note to reclamation, using dangerous chemicals such as cyanide and mercury without authorization. Others use bulldozers and excavators to destroy communities. Through such means, water bodies such as Rivers Bia, Tano, and Pra became highly polluted. The most difficult aspect of the situation seems to be with local farmers and landowners who continually hide and engage in illegal mining.
What has been done so far?
Responses to the call to address this cankerous activity has been diverse: one of such responses was securing over US$19 million in World Bank funding in May 2019 to facilitate Ghana’s Forest Investment Programme-intended to regulate the undesired effects of small-scale mining, and protect rainforests which are being lost partly to the activity; banning galamsey and ASM activities in 2017; setting up of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to develop appropriate regulations, a move which has had its hindrances to success.
‘Operation Vanguard’ was subsequently launched-a specialized batch of 400 security operatives from the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police Service deployed to the three worst affected regions (Ashanti, Eastern, and Western regions) to stay and ensure all forms of illegal mining were stopped, unauthorized mining pits permanently destroyed, and degraded lands and rivers restored, as well as a reforestation program undertaken.
Following this is the deployment of another troop of personnel from the Ghana Navy and Marine Police to monitor major rivers and water bodies until illegal activities have been completely done away with.
Operation Halt II – The deployment of security operatives to stop illegal mining operations along the country’s water bodies. Although proving effective, concerns about the approach, mainly the burning of equipment, has raised questions.
Moreover, some stakeholders in the sector are being reorganized to embrace alternative livelihoods: 331 trainees, out of the first batch of 500 graduated from 11 Community Development Vocational and Technical Institutes (CDVTIs) as part of the institutional level training program. A total of 367 beneficiaries have as well been enrolled in the community-level training.
Ensuring Successful CMP Implementation;
To ensure its success thus, the Government must be committed to working with all stakeholders in the mining industry, traditional leaders inclusive, these should ensure that the initiative introduced by the government succeeds in creating jobs and improving the standard of living of the locals, eschewing partisan politics in the distribution of concessions.
This will secure recognition and inclusion for key local stakeholders in the licensing process. It will also open dialogue with local miners, bringing the decision-making processes closer to them and promoting effective policing and monitoring of the sector.
Significantly, there is a huge opportunity to examine and identify ways in which registered small-scale mines can be scaled up to become medium or even large-scale indigenous companies. This would involve increasing efficiency and finding ways to reduce production losses, and in the long run, guarantee indigenous ownership of the mining sector.