Government is conducting a geographical investigation into seven sites for alluvial and primary gold deposits to be parceled out to small-scale miners.

The sites, covering an area of 368 km2, are among 77 sites blocked out as part of interventions to curb galamsey activities in the country, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini has announced.

The Minister was addressing the Expanded Council Meeting of the Ghana Chamber of Mines holding in Kumasi.

He observed that most of the illegal activities are on large scale mining concessions with the active connivance of the concession owners.

“These concession owners are breaching the terms of their licenses and let me state that punitive measures will be taken against any concession owner who is caught collaborating with these illegal miners,” he said.

The Minister noted that it is about time the licensing regime is reviewed “so that people don’t just keep their prospecting or recognizance licenses forever; inviting galamsey operators to come and be working on those lands”.

Alhaji Fuseini is also seeking an amendment of the Minerals Act 703 to make illegal mining a strict liability offence to protect the interest of the future generation.

Illegal mining activities in Ghana killed an estimated 300 lives between 2011 and 2012. There are also frequent mine accidents as well as other socio-economic and environmental challenges which have bedeviled Ghana’s mining environment.

Alhaji Fuseini says illegal gold prospecting should be made an expensive enterprise because the operations of the miners “have serious national security implications”.

According to him, the country could be moving towards a resource curse if the menace of galamsey is not curbed, stating that the veil must be removed to expose people behind galamsey operations.

“The illegal miners operate close to local communities in the full glare of all stakeholders… The connivance of some chiefs, landlords, farmers and opinion leaders with foreigners to operate in remote areas is very worrying”.

Alhaji Fuseini says government has developed guidelines for the utilization of mining royalties by local assemblies to address complaints of inappropriate use of the royalties.

“The Assemblies’ share of the royalties is no longer for recurrent expenditure”, he stated. “The use of revenue from royalty payment will be benchmarked to enable the members of the Assembly and the communities within the jurisdiction of a district assembly to track the utilization of such royalty payments”.

He added that government is piloting a policy intervention to ensure mining royalties are paid monthly instead of the current quarterly basis.

Chief Executive of the Chamber of Mines, Dr. Toni Aubynn, reiterated calls for the establishment of a Minerals Revenue Fund, modeled along the lines of the Petroleum Revenue Fund, to remove what he termed the age old suspicion of the benefits from the receipts from mineral resources.

He noted that such Fund will allocate “how much should go to government budgets, how much to be saved for future generation and how much goes to clearly defined visible developmental projects”.