The Chief Justice has called for a stronger partnership between the Judiciary and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to salvage the country from the negative impacts of illegal mining.
Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah noted that illegal mining has deprived the country of the needed benefits in mineral exploitation, with devastating impacts on land, water bodies and farmlands.
Justice Anin-Yeboah made the call during a training programme for 32 judges and magistrates drawn from Central, Ashanti, Western, Bono and other regions affected by illegal mining operations. The training will equip the judges with the requisite skills and knowledge to interpret the more technical provisions of the laws guiding the minerals and mining sector.
“As members of the judiciary, we share very acutely, the concerns the entire nation has about the menace of illegal mining. Not only is it depriving the nation of the exploitation of its natural resources but it is exacting an incalculable toll on our environment. The pictures and videos we see of polluted water bodies are not mere disembodied images describing an abstract disaster, they have a very real impact on our lives today and years to come,” he emphasised.
Justice Anin-Yeboah said change in the quality of the water coming through our taps is an indication of the effect of the pollution of the water bodies.
“And if you felt it, imagine how it is for those who live along those rivers and rely directly on them. Think also of the farmers whose outputs have been affected. Think of the parents who may give birth to children with various genetic challenges owing to the menace through pollution of the rivers serving as the only source of water for them in the affected areas,” he added.
Justice Anin-Yeboah added his voice to the call for the resort to the law to solve the illegal mining menace.
“We are a nation of laws. That is something that I believe that we are all proud of, which means that when such abhorrent conduct as this is, happens, it is the law that we must turn to.
He believes the application of the country’s laws to the letter and partnership with the Minerals Commission, an agency under the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry, which has oversight regulatory responsibility over mining in the country, can go a long way to help solve the illegal mining menace.
“This is why the partnership with the Minerals Commission is very, very important. As the regulatory body for the sector, they have direct responsibility and oversight over this issue. It is gratifying that they have chosen to partner us to ensure that those engaged in the assault on state resources receive the punishment and correction they deserve according to law.
Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, for his part, expressed the government’s concern over the outcome of some cases adjudicated by the Judiciary “whilst we accept and duly acknowledge the independence of the judicially, government has become concerned about some of the judgements and punishments meted out to persons charged for engaging in illegal mining activities.
This notwithstanding, he commended judges, who he said have stood up to the occasion, by enforcing the laws of the mining sector with fidelity and integrity.
Mr Jinapor is hopeful that the workshop will help upgrade the knowledge of the judges and the magistrates in the adjudication of mining related cases.
“This workshop is essentially to collaborate with the Judiciary to deal with this small scale mining canker. It is my fervent hope that this workshop will bridge the knowledge gab between the mining sector and the Judiciary and lead to the emergence of sound judgments from our courts,” he said.
Mr Jinapor, therefore, called for collaboration between government, judiciary and all stakeholders in the fight against the illegal mining menace.
“My lords without doubt, the efforts of government and other actors will not amount to much unless the judiciary, the vanguard and custodians of the rule of law in our country, is equipped with the necessary skills and tools to enforce without fear or favor the mining laws of our country.
“The strict enforcement of the mining laws of our country, particularly without regards to status in society is a sine qua non for the success of our national efforts to sanitise this industry,” the Minister emphasised.