The government is undertaking geological exploration of seven areas totaling 349 square kilometres in various parts of the country for the possible relocation of small-scale miners.

This will also help reduce the spate of illegal mining in the country.

If the areas prove viable, small-scale miners will be given financial assistance to purchase equipment for the exploration of mineral deposits in those locations.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Mike Hammah, who announced this at the meet-the-press series in Accra on Thursday, said the government had procured a polishing plant to add value to the rough diamonds to increase revenue.

He said the ministry, through its agencies, would increase the number of regulatory offices in the mining areas.

Already, one of such offices has been opened in Wa to take care of mining activities in the Upper West Region and parts of the Northern Region.

Additional offices are to be opened in Konongo and Kibi to assist in the management of small-scale mining activities.

Illegal mining, otherwise called galamsey, has become the bane of the mining sector in the country.

Apart from the casualties associated with their operations, illegal miners have also been responsible for some level of environmental degradation in the country.

On lands, Mr Hammah said the ministry had been pursuing land administration reforms under the Land Administration Project (LAP) to stimulate economic development, reduce poverty and promote social stability.

Under the LAP, the ministry had succeeded in streamlining land administration institutions through the passage of the Lands Commission Act which merged four land agencies into a single entity, the Lands Commission, he said.

Additionally, the Deed Registry had been set up in regional capitals to make the registration of deed accessible to clients and also reduce time for registration from 36 months to three months.

According to Mr Hammah, all deeds in the Accra Land Registry had been scanned as part of the process to computerise the operations of the Lands Commission to facilitate easy access to information on land registration.

He said the ministry was also developing the Land Bill and the Land Use Planning Bill to create new legal frameworks for land administration and land use planning.

Reviewing some of the activities of the ministry in the year, Mr Hammah said it returned 60 per cent of lands acquired in 1942 for the Nungua Farms, covering 976.45 acres, to the Nungua Stool, while 50 per cent of the lands for the Madina Social Welfare, the Accra Training College and the West Africa Senior High School had been returned to the original owners and all necessary documentation for the return also completed.

He indicated that the ministry also paid GH¢11,056,363 million as compensation to landowners in respect of the acquisition of lands at the Dedeso Wireko No:l resettlement site for the Volta Dam project and the Volta River flooded area at Pai, Krachi, Apaaso, Ahamandi and Makango.

On the outlook for 2012, he said the ministry had started the implementation of LAP-2 as part of the continuous process of reforming the land sector.

Key activities under the LAP-2 will include decentralisation and improvement of business and land service delivery processes in 40 districts over a five-year period and the completion of the land and land use planning bills and their accompanying legislative instruments to provide a new framework for land administration.

He said the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands would commence an ascertainment process of all land owing stools, skins and families in the country to support planning and forecasting processes next year.

The minister said to prevent encroachment and maintain the integrity of the forests, the Forestry Commission, in 2010, cleaned 25,000 km of forest reserve boundaries and 4,256 km of forest boundaries.

“By October 2011 exported wood products earned the country 92.9 million euros from a volume of 278,000m, as against 116.3 million euros in value and 341,685m in volume for the same period in 2010, representing a decrease of about 0.20 per cent in value and about 0.18 per cent in volume over the previous year, and this may partly be due to the effects of the global financial crisis and the market downturn,” he stated.