The government and the Association of Small Scale Miners appear to have both taken entrenched positions on the temporary ban on all mining operations in the country.
While government insists that the ban is a necessary evil to decisively deal with illegalities and destructions involved in gold mining so as to reposition the sector for active citizens’ participation, the small scale miners on the other hand are stressing the fact that the moratorium is seriously affecting their livelihood and their ability to repay the loans they have contracted for their licensed mining operations hence the ban must be removed.
There was therefore a stalemate at a meeting held between a delegation of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources led by the sector Minister, John Peter Amewu, and members of the Ashanti region branch of the Association of Small Scale Miners led by their Spokesperson, Frank Osei, in Kumasi.
The meeting, which was at the instance of the Lands and Natural Resources Minister formed part of a three-day working tour of the Ashanti region by the Minister and came on the heels of a press conference held three days ago by members of the Association in Kumasi during which the miners gave a three-day ultimatum to government to rescind the moratorium or they will hit the streets to protest the ban.
Also at the meeting were the two Deputy Ministers of Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu Bio and Barbara Oteng Gyasi, Chief Executive of the Precious Minerals Marketing Company, Opare Hammond, the MP for Manso Nkwanta and others.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu explained that the moratorium will last for a minimum of six months of which two months have already elapsed.
The period, Mr. Amewu emphasized, will be used by the government to rid the mining sector of all the undesirable characteristics such as the use of harmful chemicals, mining within or closer to water sources while eliminating all foreigners and unlicensed people from the small scale sector.
Afterwards, government will implement measures to reclaim the degraded mined lands and purification of the polluted water sources.
He therefore, urged small scale miners to support government in this effort at bringing sanity in the sector for the sake of the current and future generations.
He however, expressed regret about the fact that some genuine miners have had to suffer from the decision which ultimate objective is to make the mining sector better off than it is now.
However, the miners, who came to the meeting wearing either red-arm bands or the Asante traditional mourning cloth of black intermittently shouted ‘chooo boi; chooo booi’, also took turns to tell the delegation why they disagree with the moratorium.
Their Spokesperson, Frank Osei noted that the small scale miners are not against the steps being taken by the government as they also accept that some bad nuts are causing serious destruction to the environment for which they have, on their own volition, started chasing out those irresponsible miners.
Mr. Osei however, repeated the resolution of members of the Association that they cannot stay out of business for the period declared by the government while their creditors continue to pursue them for the loans they took for business aside from the fact that they are being deprived of their legitimate means of legitimate livelihood and collapse of the entire value chain.