Addressing illegal mining sustainably and equitably in Ghana

 
Richard - Delivering Address at Small Scale Mining Workshop December 2014
 

Australia Awards Alumnus Richard Ellimah successfully completed a Short Course in Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives in 2015 at the University of Queensland. He is currently an Executive Director at the Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS) where he is working on the movement and relocation of illegal miners from AngloGold Ashanti’s concession.

 

Richard says during his stay in Australia and Madagascar he got exceptional insights into how mining could be used to promote local economic development. “In Australia I saw how the mining industry had been used as a catalyst to develop other downstream industries. It was a classic case study for me. The other extreme was the situation in Madagascar where the mining industry had virtually taken over the institutional governance of entire districts. Between these two I was able to learn how best to position Ghana’s mining industry to enable it to support a strong local economy.”

 

For a long time, Ghana has been grappling with the challenge of illegal mining which has become an economic justice issue since in the past very large concessions were given to multinational mining companies to undertake mining operations. These concessions were so big that they covered more than one administrative district. “Essentially, within these administrative districts only one company may be licensed to do mining, leaving thousands of youth from the communities without access to any legal concession. In more recent times, the problem has been characterised by the invasion of these large scale mines by these illegal miners. One of the reasons for the invasion of these large scale mines is the fact that illegal miners do not have access to alternative mineral concessions. Currently there is no model that promotes the mutual existence of small scale miners and large scale operators, says Richard.

 

In response to appeals for an alternative concession, AngloGold Ashanti released 60 percent of its concession to the Government of Ghana in line with the provisions of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703). The Government then set up a Movement/Relocation Committee which Richard was involved in to draw a road map that would eventually see to the gradual relocation of illegal miners on AGA’s ceded concession. Richard served as representative of the Obuasi Municipal Assembly on the Committee and was also appointed the Spokesperson, where he dealt with the media, explaining the work of the Committee to the public, and building the needed confidence in the process.

 

“This initiative is very important as it will provide a model that other mining districts can use to remove illegal miners operating on the concession of large scale mining companies. More importantly the success of this Movement/Relocation Committee provides a major breakthrough in efforts to sustainably address the problem of illegal mining across the country.”

 

Richard says the initiative benefits an estimated 3,000 illegal miners currently operating on AngloGold Ashanti’s concession. When they are fully moved, they will form cooperatives and have titles to their own concession. By extension communities where these illegal miners will be relocated will also have extra revenues to enable them boost the local economy.

 

So far the Committee has succeeded in preparing four different mine sites to receive these illegal miners who would be moved from AngloGold Ashanti’s concession. Excavation works have been done, exposing the ore body that they can use and paving the way for a brighter economic future.

 

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Richard lives with a mobility impairment; he has paralysis of the right leg as a result of polio, and walks with a limp but says he completed his Short Course successfully due to support received while on Award.

 

“One of my biggest worries was how I was going to be supported while on the program. But I was amazed that right from the time I was accepted I was contacted by Australia Awards and the necessary arrangements were made to make my life in both Australia and Madagascar comfortable. In the field, I was supported with special transport arrangements so that I did not have to walk long distances. In actual fact Australia Awards lived up to their core value of ensuring equality of opportunity for all persons, irrespective of disability.”