The University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), in collaboration with the Minerals Commission, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners to commit to sustainable and responsible artisanal and small-scale mining.
The signing of the MoU took place at the maiden celebration of the “Sustainable Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Awareness Day”, organised by UMaT at Tarkwa, with support from the EPA, Minerals Commission, and the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners.
Vice-Chancellor of UMaT, Professor Richard Kwasi Amankwah, after the signing of the MoU, explained to Citi News the relevance of the awareness day and the MoU to the enforcement of mining laws.
“I personally believe that before you enforce a law, you have to let education go ahead of it. The issue is that you cannot enforce a law where about 80 percent of the people are disobeying it. So we want to engage the miners and move step by step along with them to understand what is really at stake. So in the months ahead of us, they will learn to obey the laws like not mining close to rivers, not burning mercury in the open, and not putting their mining dredgers on the rivers. Once these things are done, I believe that we can move forward along with them,“ he said.
Professor Amankwah also highlighted the roadmap for the MoU, which is expected to ensure a win-win sustainable artisanal small-scale mining sector.
“For the roadmap, we have already started meeting with the miners, even before today’s event. Thus, on a month-to-month basis, there are some things we have to do. First, we know that somebody manufactures the dredgers and somebody transports them onto the rivers. We have to engage the people doing those things, welding them together, transporting them and those who are using them. Once we are able to stop people from producing it, it means that the dredgers that have already been burnt would not be replaced.”
“So we are going to monitor that over a period. Again, they [GNASSM] also have their own task force, and it will interest you to know that they have already taken into their custody about 80 of these machines that are used on rivers, and they are going to go ahead to confiscate more out of the system. And once they continue to do that, and we are not producing more, we believe we would be able to curtail that,” he added.
The General Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners, Godwin Amarh, emphasising the association’s support for the sustainable mining awareness day and their commitment to the MoU, said it is a win-win approach to ending the unsustainable artisanal small-scale mining activities which they are committed to.
“Small-scale mining has evolved from just being the means by which the rural poor survives which is most often poverty-driven, to the statues of wealth creation business modules driven by local entrepreneurs. Apart from the thousands of jobs it creates, the sector has also paid over GHS200 million in withholding taxes since its introduction in May 2020. In recent times, the devastation caused by illegal mining thus; the pollution of our river bodies, land degradation, and the destruction of our forest reserves is of huge concern to the government and the people of Ghana, just like the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners.”
“However, the government’s intervention of using the military to curb these illegal activities in the past three decades has not achieved any substantial result. Although the Association supports the government in the fight against illegal mining, we would suggest that there should be a relook at the military intervention for us to use a more sustainable approach in dealing with the menace. It is, for this reason, we embrace UMaT’s awareness Day with a commitment to the MoU for a win-win small scale mining sector,” he said.
On 2nd June 1989, the small-scale Mining Law was gazetted, and 32 years later, the maiden ‘Sustainable Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Awareness Day’, has been celebrated with the intention to create a national and global awareness platform for stakeholders in the ASM sector to interact to ensure the maximum achievement of the socio-economic potential of the sector without compromising the quality of the environment.
It is the position of all the stakeholders including UMaT, GNASSM, Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Western Regional Minister, Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, that the pledge towards sustainable and responsible mining, will ensure a win for miners, a win for the government, and a win for Ghana.