More than $7 billion worth of gold obtained from illegal mining activities was smuggled from the country in 2016 alone, a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, has said.
Addressing a meeting with district chief executives (DCEs) and the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Kumasi last Friday, Mr Owusu-Bio said a substantial quantity of the gold was allegedly smuggled by foreigners who had gone to the mining sites to buy the mineral.
The meeting formed part of the three-day tour of the Ashanti Region by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, and his entourage, including Mr Owusu-Bio.
Mr Owusu-Bio described as unacceptable the situation where a whopping $7 billion worth of gold could be smuggled from Ghana without the state earning a dime from it.
The purchase of gold at mining sites, he said, was an affront to the laws of the country and deprived the nation of much-needed revenue for development.
At a press conference in 2016, indigenous gold dealers expressed concern over the purchase of gold by some Chinese and Indians at mining sites.
As part of efforts to sanitise the mining industry, the deputy minister said, the laws governing small-scale mining would be strictly enforced to ensure that no foreigner went to the sites either to mine or buy gold.
He said laid down procedures would be followed to ensure that the country’s mineral resources were exploited in a sustainable manner that would not damage the environment.
Mr Owusu-Bio explained that the ban placed on small-scale mining was part of the measures to contain the alarming rate of gold smuggling.
He said DCEs should be made to sign key performance indicators, including the protection of the environment and punishment of those who should have acted but failed to do so.
He expressed surprise at the fact that the law made DCEs the heads of district security committees and district mining committees but they had allowed wanton destruction of the environment to continue in their areas of jurisdiction.
Addressing small-scale miners minutes after the meeting with political party youth leaders and the DCEs, Mr Amewu explained that the government was not against mining but was concerned about the rate at which mining had destroyed water bodies, farmlands and forest reserves and left in its wake the degradation of the environment
He said since the NPP believed in property-owning democracy, it wanted to bring sanity into the system and even ensure that the miners got maximum returns on their investments in a sustainable manner.