Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an orebody, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, chalk, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay.
Ghana has 23 large-scale mining companies producing gold, diamonds, bauxite and manganese, and, there are also over 300 registered small scale mining groups and 90 mine support service companies. Other mineral commodities produced in the country are natural gas, petroleum, salt, and silver.
Small Scale Mining has been an aged-lonng activity that served as the source of livelihood in the 15th century, until it was mainstreamed through promulgation of the small scale mining law, PNDC 218 (1989) amid smuggling. It was later integrated into new Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act703), which the sections 81 to 99 of it applied to Small Scale Mining in 2006.
Gold symbolizes prosperity, reward, love, commitment and so much more, but shouldn’t it also shine brightly in the lives of the Peruvian miner digging deep underground, or the mother from Ghana who supports three children by working in a gold mine? These are the lives gold touches every day.
“Globally there are around 25 million people employed in small-scale mining, 3 million in the industrial sector, and over 100 million people indirectly dependent on gold mining. Although many small-scale miners earn enough to live, many more miners, both industrial and small-scale, are at risk of staying trapped in the poverty cycle.
Numerous miners remain in the informal sector and do not receive fair prices for their gold and face a higher risk of exploitation. Why mine? Small-scale miners often turn to this profession because there are few viable economic alternatives,” according to Solidaridad.
However, irresponsible mining activities in the country over the years have brought about detrimental effects on the lives and the development of the country.
This is because, the country had been too flexible with its mining regulatory laws governing mining activities which has paved way for many investors into the country and thus, we are faced with these irresponsible mining canker that has become a hard Knut to crack.
Irresponsible mining activities has resulted in the loss of livelihood, displacement of about 100,000 landlords, pollution of many rivers, the exacerbation of poverty in mining communities, destruction of forest reserves, destruction of many ancestral heritage and to name a few.
In fact, all irresponsible mining activities must be regarded as “Galamsey”, be it large or small scale mining. The country is faced with a lot of challenges like pollution of water bodies, destruction of livelihoods, land degradation and creating serious social and environmental problems, thanks to irresponsible mining activities.
The way and manner in which most of the gold is currently mined and processed in the country, has negative consequences for both the people and the environment in and around mining communities. This is compounded by the fact that mining is the third largest global industry, just behind agriculture, and takes place in 80 countries.
But looking at it today, many mining operations are not in conformity with the internationally accepted standards. And we all know that, when mining and extraction are not properly managed, it can damage the environment, both today and for years ahead.
Irresponsible mining practices in terms of people, the planet, and supply chains, creates negative consequences for the water supply and some communities’ access to clean water. Water can be diverted from communities to mines and toxic run-off and erosion can pollute waterways and what have you.
As per Solidaridad’s findings, globally, mining uses up to 10% of the world’s energy and contributes to deforestation in protected areas and ecosystems, like rainforests. And local landscapes can also suffer devastating losses to biodiversity when forests and indigenous flora plants are razed to make space for mines. Toxic acid mine drainage and metals runoff can damage ecosystems and agricultural potential for generations.
Until operators take a more responsible approach, mining will therefore continue to contribute to climate change, which is not supposed to be the case. This needs a concerted efforts to create the change that matters to us all.
In the wake of this, Ghana now has in place a number of CSOs, Non-profit Oganizations, other Networks, and Advocacy groups including the recent Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG), to strategically address pertinent issues regarding irresponsible mining activities in the country.
Solidaridad is an International Civil Society Network Foundation founded in 1969 by Nico Roozen. It envisions a world where the people who produce the resources on which we all depend on can contribute to change that matters, change that leads to prosperity for all, without harming each other or the environment. This therefore helps to ensure that resources will continue to sustain us for generations to come.
On July 4th, 2018, Solidaridad in partnership with EPA, Minerals Commission and the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM) organized a training workshop on Responsible Practices in the Small Scale Mining Sector for Media Personnel in Accra, to collectively think through what should be done to the discourse, in order to guide, support and shaping government’s agenda around SSM.
Suzan Hermina-Yemidi, the country representative of Solidaridad, at the event said, “The change we seek is a market process driven by the private sector. However, civil society organizations and governments play an essential role in enabling and encouraging change. In this process, Solidaridad is a transition manager. We back farmers who are economically poor but have rich potential, entrepreneurial men and women, and workers who want to build their livelihoods on a fair income. Solidaridad partners with all parties in the supply chain, so that everyone can be involved in creating change that matters.”
“Our aim is to make an impact by being the best in building partnerships, in piloting and scaling up programmes, in learning and innovation.” Mining and industry, She said needed to switch to a responsible means of production, whereas Workers’ rights are respected and the environment is preserved for future generations, keeping its potentials intact.
Suzan indicated that, Solidaridad’s organizational structure has been designed to maximize international development cooperation, capacity, transparency, accountability, performance and impact.
She noted, “This allows us to develop and implement international and regional policy and programmes in the most effective way possible. We operate under a common vision and mission, and are fully aligned around consistent and comprehensive international commodity strategies.”
Mr. Nelson Ahedor, from the Minerals Commission, indicated that SSM activities have increased productivity and earnings of most Ghanaian SSM, thus making the sector a more attractive business in Ghana. Noting that, ASM contributed 39% (1.6 million oz) of total gold production in 2016 and a total Diamond of (173,863 carats).
“While Ghana may have made appreciable progress in dealing with its SSM sector, a lot more remains to be done especially in the areas of illegal mining and environmental management, lack of access to finance, connivance of some Chiefs, and many more” he said.
Looking at the way forward, Mr. Ahedor recommended the encouragement of peer review among ASM operators, Active stakeholder engagement for the improvement of ASM, and an integrated approach involving all stakeholders to address the multifaceted challenge of ASM.
Justine Shirley Seyire Dzadzra, Chief Programme Officer, Mining Department at EPA, on her part said, the instituted multi-sectoral interpreted project needs to be supported, review and enforce the legal and regulatory regime.
She said, there should be reclamation of degraded lands, dredge silted estuaries and waterways and free lands for agribusiness. There should also be social interventions to facilitate sustainable livelihood creation in mining communities.
The Chief Programme Officer, again added that, there should be adaptation of technology to ensure efficient mining, processing, environmental and monitoring activities, and as well as capacity building for ASMs, regulatory institutions and project management.
However, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is poised to constitute a joint committee made-up of Chamber of Mines, Minerals Commission and the Small-Scale Miners Association, to develop modalities for relinquishment of unused concessions of large-scale mining firms to small-scale miners.
Speaking to Madam Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, a Deputy Minister of MoLNR in charge of Mining, She disclosed government’s plans to refine 30% of all gold produced in the country by large-scale commercial mining companies, Mining Operational Audit, Local Content Regulation and relinquishment of all unused concessions by large mining firms to be allotted to small-scale mining co-operatives.
According to her, government would build a strong supply basin in the country to support the mining industry under the National Supply Development Programme.
Meanwhile, She said government was very committed to find lasting solutions and holistic policy intervention to curb the menace of illegal mining under the Multi-Sectoral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) for sustainable livelihoods for small-scale miners in the country.