The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Kwaku Ansomah-Cheremeh, has described as a mischievous attempt to link the deportation of Aisha Huang, the Chinese national engaged in illegal mining in the country with the Synohydro Barter Agreement of $2billion with China.
According to the minister, more than 194 foreign nationals had been arrested and deported since the fight against the illegal activity commenced in 2017 as a result, the deportation of Aisha Huang also known as “Galamsey Queen” was not an exception.
“Additionally, almost 400 persons have been arrested and subjected to various sanctions aimed at extinguishing their ability to continue with galamsey operations. These include deportations of some 194 foreign nationals from various countries and the imposition of fines on some locals as well,” he emphasized.
Addressing the media in Accra yesterday, Mr. Ansomah-Cheremeh said at no point during the negotiations for the facility did the name of the “Galamsey Queen” popped up, stressing that, “this woman was in the country prior to the negotiations and I must say no government official thought of shelving her and no government official pampered her. There is no one in the New Patriotic Party who ever thought of or even contemplated the name of Aisha Huang during the negotiation.”
He said it was important to note that prior to 2016, several attempts had been made both in terms of the carrot and stick approaches to minimise, if not eliminate illegal activities in the small-scale mining sector of the country.
However, the situation led to a dramatic plunge into a dominance of illegal mining and led to the wanton degradation of our lands and pollution of the country’s water bodies which brought the activities into the national limelight.
Mr Ansomah-Cheremeh said when the present administration took over the reins of government, it therefore had to act decisively to arrest the situation and craft a path for sanitising the small-scale mining industry.
“The commitment, bold and political will demonstrated by the President and his government in fighting this social menace, endeared the hearts of Ghanaians and called for support from the broad masses, with the media and some civil society organisations championing a parallel campaign against illegal mining,” he said.
He said government was unwavering in its fight against illegal mining in the country despite attacks from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) as the fight had achieved significant results and was now moving into a new phase with the community mining programme.
Mr Ansomah-Cheremeh said government’s commitment to fighting illegal mining while streamlining the management of the small-scale mining sub-sector particularly, within the broad mining sector was on course and the results would begin to show shortly.
“It is therefore unwarranted for anyone to describe the fight against galamsey as a failed one and betrayal of the trust of the Ghanaian people. The converse is rather the fact on the ground and the government will continue to rely on the support of the public to deal with this menace that threatens the survival of our country,” he emphasized.
He said the measures adopted by government over the last two years included the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) to deal with the situation, provision of the required support for the operations of the IMCIM and placing a one and half years moratorium on all small-scale mining to facilitate identification of and dealing with illegal mining activities.
“In addition, were vetting of small-scale miners to ensure that they understand and would comply with the legal and regulatory requirements, Operation Vanguard which had attracted huge success as far as our lands and especially the turbidity our water bodies are concerned,” he said.
According to the minister, one of the most important decisions which would also act as the game changer for the sector was the community mining scheme that was being introduced, adding that, “the bulk of members of this mining cooperatives are made up of more than 4000 trained artisanal mining graduands of the University of Mines Tarkwa (UMaT).
He said these graduands would be assisted by the Minerals Commission to obtain portions of blocked out areas within the minerals cadastre for them to undertake sustainable mining practices.
Mr Ansomah-Cheremeh said along these measures, the legal framework was being streamlined and strengthened to serve as a deterrent to the illegal activities, while the court system was being streamlined to deal more expeditiously with illegal mining cases brought before them.
“It is therefore unwarranted for anyone to describe the fight against galamsey as a failed one and a betrayal of the trust of the Ghanaian people. The converse is rather the fact on the ground and the government will continue to rely on the support of the public to deal with this menace that threatens the survival of our country,” he concluded.
By Cliff Ekuful