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19.12.2004 Business & Finance

Government expresses concern about illegal mining

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Prestea (W/R) Dec 19, GNA - Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, Minister of Mines, has assured mining companies that the government will put measures in place to curb illegal mining in the country. She mentioned Golden Star Resources, whose Prestea Mine is faced with illegal mining activity also known as "Galamsey" and urged the company to be resolute, adding that, the Ministry was adopting a two pronged approach to improve the situation.

Mrs. Bannerman, who was speaking during the National Mines Safety Day Celebration at Prestea on Saturday, said the Ministry of Mines was considering a proposal from a consultant that would enable small-scale miners to be relocated to sites to work legally.

She expressed the hope that when the proposal got the nod all unlicensed miners would cooperate with the government for the successful implementation of the project.

The Minister pointed out that recalcitrant ones who refused to legalise their operations would face the full rigours of the law. Mrs Bannerman said the Mines Department was being resourced to monitor the concessions of mining companies to prevent wanton environmental degradation.

She said the impact of galamsey was a major concern to government because the operators degraded the environment and put themselves at risk through the use of mercury, a toxic non-bio-degradable substance, which found its way into water bodies.

They do not reclaim disturbed lands and the government loses a lot of revenue since they do not pay mineral royalties and other taxes, she said, adding that, they also smuggled the gold they produce outside the country.

"These are some of the reasons why government, through my Ministry is determined to find lasting solutions to the menace of galamsey," Mrs Bannerman added.

Miss Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of Chamber of Mines, noted that the government's efforts at wooing investors into the mining sector would be a mirage if it did not take steps to stem the spate of illegal mining on legally acquired concessions.

She said the mining companies would ensure that their employees and their dependants received quality health-care, which was at least equal to the services under the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Miss Aryee identified HIV/AIDS as the single most important threat to productivity in the mining industry and said considerable resources had been invested in training their employees, which called for collaboration to fight the menace before it wiped out mining sector workers.

"Whilst the mining companies would continue to fund their individual workplace HIV/AIDS programmes employees have an onerous responsibility to change their lifestyles. For, whilst awareness of the pandemic is reportedly high, this is not matched by the requisite change in behaviour." She said.

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