The long-awaited minerals policy has been launched with the aim of ensuring that mining contributes to the sustainable development of the nation.
The policy document, which was initiated in 1999 seeks to provide a standard framework for implementing the various mineral regulations in the country. It is also aimed at regularising the activities of small-scale mining.
Launching the 60-page document in Accra on behalf of President John Dramani Mahama, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills said the policy would help address the structural inadequacies in the mining industry.
He cited the over-reliance on the exploitation of what had been styled as traditional minerals, including gold, diamond, bauxite and manganese, to the neglect of others such as base metals and industrial minerals which abound in Ghana.
The first draft of the policy was completed in 2001 after which the Minerals Commission with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat began a review.
After various consultations and review by independent bodies, with inputs from stakeholders, the policy was finally approved by Cabinet in 2015.
The growth of the mining sector, he said, had been plagued by the environmental damage resulting from mining activities.
“Even though a plethora of policies, laws and regulations existed, the issue was still a source of worry,” he said, adding that there were provisions in the new law to ensure that mining was done in an environmentally safe way.
To boost the benefits accruing to the economy from mining, Mr Mills said “There should be conscious efforts aimed at integrating the mining industry with the rest of the local economy.”
That, he said, would make it possible for local entrepreneurs to increase their participation in the mining industry, especially in the area of provision of goods and services, described as ‘local content’.
He therefore encouraged graduates from the University of Mines and Technology to venture into small-scale mining to give it the necessary facelift.
To ensure that Ghana enjoys a competitive advantage in the downstream mining industry, he said the policy made provisions for the establishment of a gold refinery.
“A viable jewellery industry could flourish only if jewellers could have easy access to relatively cheap refined gold. There is a policy to develop the jewellery industry but the projected industry will not yield the desired benefits if we continue to refine our gold outside Ghana,” he said.
Highlighting sections of the policy, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Minerals Commission, Dr Toni Aubynn, briefed the gathering, comprising officials of mining firms, members of the Association of Small-scale Miners and representatives of the Australian and Chinese community in Ghana on the history and state of Ghana’s mineral and mining sector.
He said Ghana was endowed with immense economic mineral resources with gold being the predominant mineral.
On mineral licensing, he said a modern mineral cadastral was being developed to facilitate and streamline the administration of mineral rights and that the new policy stipulated that mining activities should commence only after environmental and other permits had been obtained.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines and Technology, Prof. Jerry S. Y. Kuma, described the policy as a timely and laudable initiative.
He said the university was developing a training programme for small-scale miners to equip them with mine management skills while it liaised with the Minerals Commission to ensure that only persons with such skills were given licences to operate in order to safe guard the environment.
For his part, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Accra, Mr Li Jiang, said there were eight large-scale mining companies in Ghana, as well as a large number of Chinese in Ghana’s mining industry and stated that the new policy was a welcome idea to ensure that the industry was regulated.
However, the President of the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners was not happy there were no provisions to regulate illegal mining.
He said the new law focuses on small-scale miners who were already being regulated “but the real challenge of the industry is with the illegal miners who are referred to as ‘galamsey’ miners. There must be a conscious effort to regulate their operations by making it easy for them to obtain licences.”
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