Advisor to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, on mines, Mr Benjamin Aryee has clarified the embargo on the prospecting and reconnaissance activities in all forest reserves in the country, hinting that no prospecting activities should go on in any of the country’s forest reserves, including Atiwa.
He made this point in an interview with Alfred Ocansey on 3FM’s Sunrise on Friday, April 23.
When answering the question if the new directive on prospecting and reconnaissance activities in our forest reserves includes that of Atiwa Forest, Mr. Aryee said, “let me just say that the statement is for forest reserves and the intention is for all forest reserves. I’m sure you’re aware there are classes of forest reserves but the reference in this instance is for all forest reserves and we are saying that no such activities should go on in any forest reserves until determined otherwise”.
On the question of who issues the prospecting licences, he answered that “I did say in the beginning that there are categories of forest reserves, there are reserves no prospecting will be allowed and there is a category of forests where there is some issuing of permits have been allowed, some prospecting, let me underscore that, and it applies to a few entities, okay”.
“So those followed the normal process to the proper forest entry points and then they get mineral rights to prospect. These are the Production Forest Reserves, no prospecting licence has been given to anywhere other than Production Forest Reserves”.
However, when asked if the Atiwa forest is classified as a Protected Forest Reserve, Mr. Aryee said he had no knowledge of such classification.
He said, “almost yes, yes, what we are saying is all prospection, wherever in the forest, any forest reserve, is suspended, that is what we are saying, period”.
On the issue of how his outfit monitors to make sure that entities granted prospecting licences act within the law, he said,” that’s really the point because our forest reserves cover quite a large part of the country, I have said only a few have been granted licences to prospect so there’s monitoring of those. And then there are a number of them who are operating in forest reserves and claim to have some rights which they don’t have. Number one, we want to identify such ones, those obviously are operating illegally and so such public notices may unlikely be abided by, so they will stand out and we can deal with them quickly, so that’s the first one”.
“The second category is some of those who may have prospecting licences truly, but the prospecting licence is just to find the mineral, it is not to exploit any mineral at all. So those who have been given prospecting licence may have been told, as happened at the recent dialogue, that some may on their own, either be mining or may have allocated part of it to others to mine, clearly illegally, so as to identify such ones and be able to deal with them, that’s the context of the public notice”.
Mr. Aryee pointed out that “there is a monitoring mechanism, all licences granted are followed up with monitoring agents so the inspectors at the inspectorate division of the Minerals Commission, as well as the Monitoring Division, pay visits to these licenced areas to see what is happening on the ground. Again when these are in a forest, then the Forestry Commission has some oversight but sometimes we may even miss some of these because they know they are operating where they ought not to be, etc”.
“So just to cover all of these, we want to be sure that we have a comprehensive view of things and hence, this public notice. So this public notice is sort of to freeze all actions even if you have the legal right to be operating, we are saying pause for now, to give us the chance to identify those who are operating at the wrong places and those who are doing the wrong thing, so we can deal with those”.
He further touched on the point about those who have prospecting licences but are mining in some forest reserves in the country, saying “we have followed up on some of them, some licences have been withdrawn and so on. But then again we need to establish very clearly that that is happening because people are taking us to court, actually, we are in court because of some licences that have been suspended, people doing the wrong things, you take action and because we have not documented it well, they end up rather taking you to court and clearly we’ve got to operate within the law, to be sure we have all the documents we need, then when we show up, we can demonstrate clearly that it was the right thing to have suspended, to have terminated their licences or whatever”.
By Barima Kwabena Yeboah|3news.com|Ghana