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“We have Not Done Enough”   
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Ben Laryea
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Ben Laryea, Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, has admitted the commission has not done enough to curb illegal mining in the country.

In a frank assessment of the commission’s handling of illegal mining at a press conference yesterday, he said “we regulators are guilty of not ensuring that the law is enforced to the letter.”

To ensure that the Minerals Commission lives up to expectation, Mr. Laryea said “we are going to work on it. The fight against illegal mining is one that we must win.”

He cautioned that the commission would not hesitate to deal with any staff member who condones illegal mining, adding, “We stand against the practice and we will enforce the law and regulations.”

The Minerals Commissions chief executive told journalists at a news conference in Accra on the threat posed by foreigners in illegal mining in Ghana following the clash between community members of Manso Nsiena in the Amansie West District and Chinese illegal miners last week that the existing law has not been punitive enough.

The Chinese nationals, who were brandishing guns, threatened their host community along with the traditional authorities who wanted to know if the foreigners had permits to mine in the area.

Insufficient sanctions under the law, he pointed out, could also be blamed for the proliferation of illegal mining activities across the country, adding that perpetrators were only fined.

The existing law stipulates that anyone who engages in illegal mining is fined 14,000 penalty units. A unit is valued at GH¢12.

“This is not adequate. Anyone can just pay and walk away that is why there are more people in it,” said Mr Laryea.

The commission, he said, was considering the amendment of the law which would proffer stiffer punishment to any individual who engages in illegal mining which is popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’.

“We are proposing two things. That illegal mining should be made an offence and that the punishment should not be a fine but serve a jail term that one cannot get bail,” the Chief Executive said.

Also, the commission wants the sophisticated equipment used by the illegal miners to be confiscated to the state.

Small scale mining is reserved for Ghanaians who are over 18 years and exhibit the capacity to venture into the business to obtain permit from the commission through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources after satisfying all the necessary documentation.

Since small scale mining was legalized in 1989, he said, about 709 licenses had been issued.

“Mining on a small scale basis in still a viable and desirable economic activity, which can provided livelihoods for large numbers especially in remote, deprived areas with sometimes very little else in terms of alternatives.”

Mr. Laryer called on all “to get on board since none can remain passive any longer. It calls for all to collaborate with and call on the regulators of the mining industry to account for their stewardship in managing the resources.

Apart from the Minerals Commission, other regulators of the mining industry include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Water Resources Commission.

Source: Emelia Ennin Abbey

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