The Minister of Mines and Natural Resources, Mr. Peter Amewu has affirmed that the suspension of all mining activities over the stipulated six month period is still in force.
“The six month ban on mining activities is on course. The fight against illicit mining is ongoing”, he told small scale miners who are agitating to go back to operate because they are licensed.
Members of the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM) see the ban as attempts by the government to ban small scale mining.
But Minister Amewu, in reaction to concerns raised by the group, has reiterated that the government is not against mining, neither was it stopping small scale miners by the move.
The Minister, who was interacting with representatives of the group in Kumasi last Friday, ahead of a four day tour of mining sites in the region, said the NPP government believes in property owning democracy and, therefore, not against mining stressing that the destruction of the mining industry by the government will be against the constitution and the party’s manifesto.
“We are against the methodology and approach of extracting gold”, he said, and explained that it was not the license which makes an operator a small scale miner.
He explained further that licenses issued to small scale miners are not for operation in forests, rivers adding that this category of miners are not to engage in the application of dangerous chemicals for mining.
The Minister said all mining activities have been suspended to enable the ministry liaise with stakeholders to clean the system and make small scale mining a preserve of Ghanaians as required by law.
He indicated that the mining industry should be expanded since it had a broad value chain hence the need for small scale miners to help the government to clear all those who mine in rivers and forests.
Mr Amewu emphasised that mining without permit and application of dangerous chemicals are illegal.
Mr Benito Owusu Bio, Deputy Minister of Mines on his part said the six month suspension order would enable the government to establish more district mining offices and engage more mining inspectors to do effective monitoring and inspection of mining sites.
He said small scale miners per licenses issued to them are not to use heavy duty equipment for mining and that their operations are confined in a statutory boundary.
The Deputy Minister, who doubles as the MP for Nwabiagya, assured that the government was ready to negotiate repayment of loans with banks on behalf of small scale miners, most of who claim they are being affected by the suspension.
Earlier on Thursday, members of the Union of Small Scale Miners in Ashanti Region had called on the government to be fair and honest in dealing with small scale miners who had acquired their licenses and concessions legally.
At a press conference in Kumasi Mr. Frank Osei, spokesman of the group, admitted that they had created a mess in the past by not reclaiming mined lands, but said they had resolved to team up with the government to correct the mess hence the formation of Task Force to monitor activities of the group.
The association has asked that members to be given the opportunity to go back to their businesses to save lives claiming the ban on mining activities had affected the hospitality and mining industry as well as the commercial and economic activities at mining sites and communities and even contributed to the steady increase in unemployment.
Mr. Osei announced the group’s readiness to cooperate with the government to contribute monitoring fees towards the reclamation of the lands as well as provide logistics to farmers who want to till their mined lands.