The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Kwaku Asoma-Cheremeh has stated that government’s fight against illegal mining “galamsey” in the country has attained 85 per cent success rate despite continuous reports of such operations in some parts of the country.
He said the high level of success chalked does not bring the fight to an end since there were still a few miscreants who were bent on continuing with their activities to the detriment of the larger society.
“Government desires that we get to a 100 per cent success rate but there are a few miscreants who are making it difficult for all of us and that is the reason why the laws bordering on mining has been reviewed to enable us deal with these individuals and groups,” he emphasised.
Mr Asoma-Cheremeh who disclosed this at the Meet-the-Press Series organised by the Ministry of Information in Accra yesterday said there was no gainsaying that these miscreants were made up of some chiefs, individual land owners, community members and some of the security personnel deployed under the “Operation Vanguard”.
He said it was important for such miscreants to know that under the reviewed law, offenders could be convicted to a fine not lower than 10,000 and not exceeding 15,000 penalty units or a prison sentence of not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years or both.
Mr Asoma-Cheremeh said government appreciated the importance of the mining sector to the country’s economy and would continue to ensure that the country derived the maximum benefit from it.
“Not withstanding these benefits, the negative impacts of mining cannot be ignored. Most prominent of these impacts is the environmental degradation. Government is therefore committed to ensuring that mining is done in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” he said.
Touching on some key achievements over the period, he said the sector had so far generated GH¢1.3billion as government revenue, representing 17 per cent of total government revenue gathered for the year 2019.
He said the amount reflected 39 per cent increase in the sector’s contribution to government revenue relative to the GH¢980million contributed within the same period 2018.
On merchandise export he noted that an amount of $3.3billion had been generated by the sector this year as export earnings as compared to US$3billion generated over the same period thus making mining a major forex earner for the country.
The Minister said the Forestry Commission continued to monitor the production of natural forest timber across the country for export and domestic use, adding that “Statistics indicate that from 2016 to 2018, a total volume of 2.1million cube metres of timber was harvested. This was made up of 1.7million cube metres representing 81 per cent from the forest reserves and 400,000 cube metres representing 19 per cent coming from the off-forest reserve areas.”
He explained that under the Timber Resource Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017 (LI 2254), holders of leases were expected to apply to the Forestry Commission to convert their lease-holdings to Timber Utilisation Contracts within six months of the promulgation of the law.
“As part of the transparent process, the commission placed advertisements in the national dailies between May 6 and May 28, 2019. As at mid-year 2019, 165 applications had been received. Fifty-two of the applications which comprised 32 leases and 20 permits have been validated awaiting the Timber Rights Evaluation Committee (TREC) evaluation as required by law,” he said.
Mr Asoma-Cheremeh said the ban on Rosewood harvesting still remained in force, adding that “Although the ban is still in place and Ministry has not issued any salvage permit since then, however, there has been numerous media reports of exploitation and export of the species in which some international media houses have also carried the story.”
He said a committee had been constituted to investigate the allegations, stressing that “I constituted a seven-man committee comprising of representatives from civil society organisations, the Ghana Revenue Authority, Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry to unravel the allegations made by the EPA.
The Minister also asked the public not to place importance on the decision to burn all confiscated Rosewood as announced by the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission.
By Cliff Ekuful