The Ghana Chamber of Mines has warned that the sudden withdrawal of military personnel guarding mining concessions would have devastating consequences on their operations.
The Chamber argued that the action is causing “fear and apprehension” among mine workers, which he said could seriously impede the operations of mining companies.
Government has directed the withdrawal of military officers involved in Operation Calm Life in mining areas by Saturday, November 30.
Ahmed Nantogmah, Director of Public Affairs at the Ghana Chamber of Commerce, told Joy FM’s Top Story Friday that they are appealing to government to “shelve” the decision.
The five day notice given them was inadequate, he said, and prayed government would adopt a more gradual approach in implementing the decision.
He said the Chamber fears explosives, cyanides and other hazardous chemicals used by the mining industry which requires the protection of armed security officers would get into the hands of the wrong people.
Though the companies have unarmed security, he said they are not capable of warding off illegal miners from encroaching and stealing from the mining firms.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, had told Joy News the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies have been directed to institute their own security measures to curtail the menace of illegal miners, which will form part of their performance assessment.
But the Ghana Chamber of Mines is not totally convinced about the approach and the type of security the MMDAs will use, Ahmed Nantogmah indicated.
However, Mr Robert Wisdom Cudjoe, Prestea Huni/Valley District Chief Executive in the Western Region under whose jurisdiction many of these mining companies operate, assured that the companies have nothing to fear about.
He said even before the Operation Calm Life came into effect, the district was using the Bureau of National Investigations and other security agencies to contain the activities of illegal mining.
But Ahmed was not convinced. The said the presence of the military alone scares away these illegal miners who want to take over their concessions. He wondered what the fate of the companies would be should the illegal miners attack them at night.
"The sudden withdrawal is making everybody panic," he said.
Earlier in the day, the Ghana Chamber of Mines held a press conference to outline its reservations about the government’s decision.
BELOW IS THE STATEMENT
Accra Friday, 29thNovember, 2013
Our attention has been drawn to the Military High Command’s decision to withdraw officers involved in the Operation “Calm Life” from the Ashanti, Western and BrongAhafo Regions.
The Ghana Chamber of Mines considers this line of action as dangerous and therefore objects to it as it will have negative ramifications on the mood of security at mining companies and their host communities.
Our protestation is underlined by the following reasons:
The correspondence communicating the decision to withdraw these personnel was dated November 26, 2013. Yet, the officers were to vacate their post on November 30, 2013. Obviously, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange an alternative credible security system within this short period.
Moreover, the mining industry makes use of Explosives, Cyanides and other hazardous chemicals which require the protection of armed security officers by law. Withdrawing these officers therefore increases the risk of it getting into the hands of the wrong people. In turn, the danger to human health and the safety of the environment will be escalated.
The Minerals and Mining Act (2006), Act 703, states that every mineral in its natural state located within the boundaries of Ghana is the bonafide property of Ghanaians vested in the President. This implies that the state has a responsibility to complement the efforts of mining companies in protecting these mineral resources.
Again, this pull-out has the potential to scale-back the gains made by the government in halting illegal mining. As you are no doubt aware, several billions of the tax payer’s money has been spent to arrest, prosecute and even deport foreigners involved in this illegal activity.
In recent times, there has been an increase in the incidence of armed robbery on the Takoradi- Tarkwa, Tarkwa–Bogoso and Bogoso-Ayanfuri roads as well as other areas close to mine sites. The presence of these officers has provided succor to property and life in the affected areas. Withdrawing these officers will therefore open the flood gates of crime in the highly security sensitive mining areas. This has evencompelled the Ghana Mine Workers Union to threaten a withdrawalof their services if the Military High Command implements its decision. Their threat stems from the insecurity that will engulf the mine site as a result of the absence of the armed officers.
The Ghana Chamber of Mines is therefore asking the Military High Command to shelve its decision while they collaborate to resolve this challenge.