It appears state institutions mandated to ensure responsible mining are themselves breaching the law by not enforcing same.

A ‘Performance Audit Report Of The Auditor-General On Regulating Reclamation Activities at Small-Scale Mining Sites’, shows clear breaches of the Mineral and Mining Regulations, 2012 and the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999.

The report indicts the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for failing to ensure that small-scale miners adhere to the polluter pay principle, which ensures that miners reclaim mined pits.

The report, which was conducted between January 2016 and December 2020, says an amount of over GHS 500,000 was not collected from 12 concessioners as reclamation bonds.

What the report said

In its summary, the report said, the activities of MC and EPA did not ensure that small-scale miners reclaim degraded mined sites to return them to their maximum beneficial value as required by the Mineral and Mining Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2182) and the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652).

It added that EPA had not put the necessary measures in place to enforce the posting of reclamation bonds by SSM operators. While the Minerals Commission did not enforce the submission of operating plans by SSM companies/groups, both organizations failed to appropriately monitor and report on the extent of reclamation to ensure compliance.

In addition, the MC and EPA had not implemented procedures to verify and certify reclamation works.

“Poor enforcement of the laws has resulted in several pits filled with water on the concessions, which have become death threats to people who live or work around them”, the report further mentioned.

On concessions where some level of backfilling of pits had taken place, there were patches of heaps of sand, mini ponds and natural vegetation cover, indications that the operators failed to level the land, and plant economic trees and nurture them as required.

EPA’s reaction

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Henry Kokofu has been responding to the issue.

He said the EPA will soon engage some companies to begin the Reclamation, Rehabilitation and Restoration (RRR) of identified degraded lands and water bodies.

“The recommendations have been taken seriously and in good faith. Indeed, steps have been taken to engage the stakeholders, including the local indigenous banks. EPA intends to fence those businesses for them. The sector minister, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, has asked EPA to roll out the directives as soon as possible.”

“Indeed, the Vice President, H.E Dr. M. Bawumia demanded a concept note on Reclamation, Rehabilitation, and Restoration of degraded lands and water bodies, which has been presented. H.E the President is very passionate about that and is in the position to offer the needed support for us to succeed. The concept note outlines the potential opportunities for jobs creations in the mined areas (communities), therefore an integral part of the fight against galamsey (solutions orientated)”, he added.