Minerals Commission Seeks Stiffer Custodial Sentences For Illegal Miners

The Minerals Commission is proposing stiffer custodial sentences for illegal mining operators instead of fines to serve as a deterrent to others. Speaking at a press conference on the threat of foreigners in illegal mining in the country, Mr. Benjamin Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of the Commission said custodial sentences and confiscation of equipment would go a long way to stem the tide. “We at the Commission think that insufficient sanctions in the law for illegal mining are part of the problem,” he said, adding that efforts would be made to seek amendment to the law to enhance the level of punishment. Mr. Aryee said the engagement of foreigners in illegal mining activities posed a threat to the country’s security and must decisively be dealt with and called on all regulators in the sector to play their roles. He called on traditional authorities, land owners and farmers to desist from illegally apportioning land for illegal mining, but rather work with regulators to grant mining licenses in appropriate location to ensure optimum benefits. In addition, Municipal and District Assemblies must be involved in the fight against the menace. “The fight against illegal mining, especially with foreigners involved, is one we must win or else risk losing even our society,” Mr. Aryee said. He said the introduction of firearms by foreigners in such communities could lead to the proliferation of small arms, which could be used for armed robbery and other violent acts while reprisal attacks on foreigners could spark a diplomatic row. Mr. Aryee said licenses had been issued to Ghanaian small-scale miners to formalise their activities, adding that such form of mining was still viable and desirable economic activity, which could provide livelihood for large numbers in deprived areas. However, he said the participation of foreigners, who were by law not permitted to engage in small-scale mining, could be attributed to high gold price, which makes marginal gold deposits economic, connivance of some chiefs, landlords and opinion leaders and Ghanaian concession owners who were taking undue advantage of the policy on mine support services provision. Mr. Aryee said the support services had had to be stopped due to fraudulent practices emerging with the Ghanaians at the forefront. He assured stakeholders that the Commission would step up its monitoring activities to ensure due process and adherence to the small-scale gold mining provisions.