The Ghanaian Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, has bemoaned the pace at which illegal mining activities are destroying the image of the country as an investment haven. "Their activities also pose a great threat to our health, safety and the environment. Because their activities are not monitored, they go about digging indiscriminately in the forests thus endangering their lives and those of farmers."

According to him, the problem of illegal mining needs to be seriously and comprehensively tackled by way of finding creative ways of addressing the harm they do to themselves, the environment, their communities and the prosperity of big mining companies.

The minister made this known at an Environment and Community Relations Conference organized by the Ghana Chamber of Mines at Nsuta, under the theme: “The Environment: all Impacts of Mining in Local Communities.”

The conference was to afford the mining industry an opportunity to share information on the progress made and challenges faced in environmental management and community relation issues. He said successful mining operations require the support of the host communities to ensure a continued renewal of the Social Licence necessary for suitable operations. He added that the relationship between mining companies and their local communities, including indigenous communities, should be built on respect, meaningful engagement and mutual benefit.

According to Mr. Asamoah Boateng, mining must act as a catalyst for development in host communities. He, therefore, charged mining companies to introduce more alternative livelihood programmes to serve as an additional source of income for employees and residents in host communities. He charged the chamber and its members to explore new environmental and waste management systems and practices to prevent excessive noise during blasting, excessive dust pollution and gaseous emission, as well as reduce agitations and confrontations from stakeholders.

Rita Tani Iddi, the deputy minister of Mines, Lands and Forestry, on her part, said the mining industry had played a significant role in the economy of the country and would continue to do so for a long time. According to her, it is one of the country’s most important foreign exchange earners whose contribution to total exports is about 33% and 11% of the country’s total revenue.

The president of the chamber of Mines, Jurgen Eigendaal, said the chamber recognizes environmental management into the continuum of operations from exploration, through design and construction to mining, minerals processing, rehabilitation and decommissioning. He said members of the chamber abide by all the laws and regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kwesi Blay, the deputy Western regional minister, in his remarks urged mining companies to endeavor to protect water bodies of stakeholder communities. He hoped the chamber, the EPA, and other agencies would live up to their oversight responsibilities to ensure that mining companies comply with the directives in their agreement documents.