The Omanhene of Asokore Asante in the Ashanti Region, Nana Dr. S.K.B. Asante, has charged government to begin consulting and involving chiefs in the issuance of licences to Artisanal and Small-Scale miners in particular.
According to the astute legal luminary, chiefs are the best way to provide legitimate advice and knowledge on the consequences of activities in their areas – and also curb the overwhelming amount of land cases pending before the courts with regard to mining.
Speaking during a UNDP Policy Dialogue on policy options for addressing gaps and challenges in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Legal Regime, Nana Dr. S.K.B. Asante said chiefs ought to be given a say in the activities of mining because they are accountable to the people and often bear the consequences of illegal mining activities.
“There are larger interests in the whole mining process in Ghana. It is important that government involves chiefs in the process of mineral licencing in the country. I will ask that we be involved in the decision – especially the paramount chiefs, to advise and bring their knowledge to bear on the process. Our consent must be sought. After all, the lands belong to Nananom or families who are from the royal families.
“We must be involved before the licence is granted, and we must also be involved in managing and enforcing the laws. We must understand the difference between large-scale and small-scale mining. And my view on large scale mining is that we the chiefs must be consulted. This is because you are dealing with huge mineral resources which affect the whole nation,” he stated.
In an interview with the B&FT, he was quick to add that government should also consult community members as well, not only the chiefs.
“The chiefs should be involved because their areas will be affected by the activities of mining and they should get some benefits. But let me also state that the communities must also be consulted. We do not want the Nigerian situation in the delta area. Over there, because the federal government having an agreement with the petroleum company without reference to the people, it has resulted in the confusion due to the environmental damage there – having citizens from that area rebelling.
“So, it is a legitimate expectation from the various chiefs and their people that they should be involved in the process and their consent sought before a mining licence is issued – especially to small-scale miners,” he added.
The Country Director of the UNDP, Dominic Sam, said Ghana must make it a point to address challenges within the small-scale mining sector in order to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“We all know the scale and importance of artisanal and small-scale mining in Ghana. So, we can confidently state that the extent to which Ghana attains the SDGs also depends on how effective the small-scale mining challenges and their related issues are addressed.
“This sector can play a critical role in poverty alleviation and rural development, but it is better known for its high environmental costs and poor communal conflict and safety record – as widely reported by media and civil society organisations.”
The legal regime governing the mining sector, Dominic Sam said, ought to be looked at critically because licencing, for example, has been considered as bureaucratic and very expensive – hence people conduct mining operations illegally, which has affected the environment and water-bodies.
“Despite the important role that traditional authorities can play in ending irresponsible mining activities, the current legal regime does not seem to provide them with clear responsibilities and workable mechanisms in the regulation and management of mineral resources in their respective jurisdictions,” he said.