The Minister designate for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, has said the government’s fight against illegal mining cannot be labelled as a failure.
He said no government had shown such commitment to fight illegal mining, also known as ‘galamsey’, under the Fourth Republic as had been done by the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo administration.
“I want to insist that the efforts of the President in his first term in dealing with illegal mining are unprecedented. I don’t think there is any government in the Fourth Republic that has taken on this fight in the manner that we did.
“The government must, therefore, be commended for the courageous and bold step. There were a lot of successes chalked up, despite the challenges,” the minister designate stated.
He said this when he took his turn at Parliament’s Appointments Committee to be vetted as part of the process to approve his nomination.
President’s call apt
Responding to questions on whether or not the President’s call for a national consultation signified that the fight had been lost, Mr Jinapor, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Damongo, said on the contrary, the President’s call was apt and appropriate.
“I believe the call was on the back of the needless politicisation of illegal small-scale mining in the country, where if a particular political party makes an attempt to resolve such, the opponent will very quickly find a way of scoring political points out of it,” he said.
The minister designate expressed the belief that it was in the spirit of that the President felt that it was time the country stopped politicising that sector.
“It is a national problem; when you go to mining communities, there are people who are suffering from health hazards, some of them getting ulcers as a result of the use of mercury in mining,” Mr Jinapor said.
He added that the environment had been degraded, saying that was the spirit in which the President asked for a national conversation to gather broad-based support for the fight against illegal mining in the country.
On the dissolution of the inter-ministerial task force against galamsey, the minister designate said it had nothing to do with failure.
No excavator missing
Mr Jinapor also pointed out that no excavators had gone missing, contrary to reports in the media that 500 excavators had gone missing.
“I have had a briefing from the inter-ministerial committee on illegal mining and I want to put on record that no excavators were missing. It was a media man who put it out there and that started the controversy,” he stressed.
Mr Jinapor said the task force confiscated 209 excavators and could account for all of them.
“As we speak, 161 of those excavators have been released. Some were given to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, while the court ordered that we return some to their owners,” he explained.
Preserving Atewa Forest
Mr Jinapor also gave an assurance that the government was committed to preserving the Atewa Forest.
“The President is the co-Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Committee of eminent advocates on matters of climate change and environmental preservation, so such issues are very important to him”, he said.
The minister designate stated that the government would ensure that the Atewa Forest was not unnecessarily degraded, saying: “Whatever we have in the extractive industry, the balance between exploiting the natural resources and preserving the environment will be a delicate one.
“What I know is that the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Corporation (GIADEC) has a green unit under its secretariat, specifically paying attention to issues of the Atewa Forest and other forest reserves which may be impacted by the work of GIADEC. So I want to assure you that we’ll protect the Atewa Forest,” Mr Jinapor said.
Digitising land administration
He said the government, in its first term, did some work, in conjunction with the World Bank, to address the challenges with land administration.
“At this stage, what we need to do is roll out a programme to digitise the records of the Lands Commission. This is non-negotiable and I know the Lands Commission itself is piloting a digitisation of the administrative records of lands in Ghana and we need to do that forcefully,” Mr Jinapor said.
Aggressive afforestation scheme
On how to address the deforestation problem in the country, the minister designate called for an aggressive afforestation programme.
“In the past administration, a lot of work was done. Under the Ghana Forest Plantation Scheme, the government planted 101.9 million trees and about 70 hectares of land was covered,” Mr Jinapor stated.
However, he pointed out that the time had come to roll out an aggressive afforestation plan where, once in a year, preferably on World Environment Day, the President would lead a tree planting exercise.
“We need to get about five million Ghanaians to plant trees. And it should not just be about planting the trees but also seeing to the growth of the trees till maturity.
“We should not just plant any tree but economical tress that will bring enormous benefits to the country,” Mr Jinapor stated.