The Association of Small Scale Miners is urging the government to force persons found to be mining illegally in forest reserves to reclaim the lands and plant new trees before exiting the site.
The group believes that it will be wrong for the government to bear the cost of reclaiming destroyed lands in forest reserves as a result of actions by illegal miners.
The General Secretary of the Association of Small Scale Miners, Godwin Armah made this known on Eyewitness News, lauding the government for the directive to all persons and companies prospecting or involved in reconnaissance in forest reserves to suspend their operations until further notice.
The government issued the directive on Thursday, ordering persons undertaking prospecting activities in forest reserves across the country to indefinitely suspend such activities.
It also directed the Minerals Commission to desist from processing or granting any request for the renewal of prospecting licences in forest reserves.
“The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources hereby directs persons and/or companies engaged in reconnaissance and/or prospecting in Forest Reserves, with or without legal authorization, to suspend such activities until further notice…The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources has further directed the Minerals Commission, with immediate effect, not to accept, process and/or recommend the grant, including the renewal and/or extension, of reconnaissance and prospecting licences in Forest Reserves,” a statement from the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry said.
Godwin Armah said the illegal miners must not be allowed to vacate the sites without reclaiming the lands.
“For those who don’t have any form of permit and are doing it illegally, they have to stop immediately. I will suggest that, with the equipment especially those doing the alluvial mining in the forest reserve, they should be stopped, and they should reclaim the land and do some form of afforestation before they leave because if they take their machines away, those pits will be there. Should government go and cover the pits of those who were working illegally when they didn’t get any revenue from them? I will advise that the minister should involve the security agencies for them to reclaim the land,” he noted.
He further urged the government to be cautious in carrying out the directive especially when there are others who are legally licensed to carry out prospective in forest reserves.
He indicated that while those who are found to be operating illegally must be stopped immediately, those who are found to be prospecting legally in forest reserves must be temporarily stopped and allowed to as soon as possible return to work.
“Some are in the forest reserves without any form of permit at all, so it is like boxing the two together but those who have gone through the process to acquire a licence to go into exploration or prospecting, the government has to write to them officially for them to cease operation…there should be a way to allow them to do their prospecting,” Mr. Armah said.
Meanwhile, the Mining Advisor to the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Benjamin Aryee says the proposal for illegal miners in forest reserves to reclaim the lands before exiting is “fair.”
He added that there must be additional sanctions for such people.
Mr. Aryee said the government will make resources available to ensure that the new directive is strictly complied with.