The Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources responsible for Lands and Forestry, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, has said the government is fully committed to ensuring that mineral deposits discovered in the Oti Region are exploited and utilised for the benefit of the people of Oti in particular, and Ghanaians in general.
The Deputy Minister made this declaration on the floor of Parliament when he was answering questions on behalf of the Sector Minister, Samuel A. Jinapor on Wednesday, 23rd November 2022.
Mr Owusu-Bio, in his answer on the steps being taken by the ministry to operationalise the mining of minerals discovered in the region, said the government is still at the exploratory stage of the mining value chain of iron ore.
"Currently, the Ghana Integrated Iron and Steel Development Corporation (GIISDEC), the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of an integrated iron and steel industry in the country, is undertaking mineral resource estimation at one of the seven blocks in the Gyamurume and Wawaso areas," he said.
He continued that Satellite scans have been completed and mapping and geophysical surveys are underway which he said is expected to be completed within a year-and-a-half, noting that so far, 10 people from the local community have been employed.
In addition to iron ore, he alluded that the Ghana Geological Survey Authority (GGSA) is carrying out geological investigations into limestone deposits to define and quantify their economic potential for exploitation.
He assured the House that before any serious mining activities begin in the Region, the Ministry will ensure that all the necessary measures are put in place to forestall any illegalities that will negatively impact the environment as seen elsewhere.
Still, on the mining sector, Mr Owusu-Bio touted a number of measures the government has put in place to mitigate the illegal mining menace, noting that these measures can also pass as progress the government has made in the fight against the menace.
"Government has implemented several policies and programmes aimed at coming to grips with this canker. We declared river bodies as red zones for mining, banned reconnaissance, prospecting and/or exploration in Forest Reserves, launched Operation Halt II to rid river bodies and forest reserves of illegal mining activities, introduced speed boats and river guards to patrol and protect our river bodies, banned the manufacture, sale and/or use of the floating platform, popularly referred to as changfan, enhanced the punishment regime for persons involved in illegal mining, revamped Community Mining Schemes and developed an Operational Manual to regulate their operations."
Answering a question about the disposal of government lands, he reiterated that as has been the case in all governments under the Fourth Republic, the government has disposed of some landed properties since 2017.
He was, however, quick to add that as to the number of transactions, the beneficiaries, and the value of those transactions, he will rely wholly on previous answers given on 3 February, 7 June, and 28 June 2022, as captured in the Hansard for those days.
He also made it clear that when the Lands Commission, which is the repository of this information, finishes compiling the records, including those relating to previous years already requested by the house, he will furnish parliament with that information.
On the question of why the government issued an Executive Instrument (E.I. 144) to declassify 40% of Achimota Forest Reserve and how lands in the reserve area were already demarcated and sold out to individuals, the deputy minister gave a historic background to the matter and stressed that the Achimota Forest is an integral part of the government’s plan for the protection of Ghana's forest cover and the country's agenda for aggressive afforestation and reforestation, adding that the government of President Akufo-Addo remains fully committed to its protection and proper management.
He, therefore, gave an assurance to the House that Government will act on any improper acquisition of public lands, regardless of how it was procured, whether now or in the past, and the Achimota Forest Lands will not be an exception.
Mr Owusu-Bio stressed emphatically that Public lands are not for sale and for that matter the Akufo-Addo government has not sold lands to any institutions, groups of people or private individuals.
Speaking to the question of quantity and whereabouts of the confiscated rosewood which is said to have been donated to the National Cathedral, he said as announced on 30th July 2022 by the sector Minister that all Rosewood confiscated will be donated towards the construction of the National Cathedral, "since this date, twelve point five (12.5) containers, containing an estimated wood volume of Two Hundred and Fifty cubic metres (250m3) of Rosewood, have been confiscated and donated to the National Cathedral Project and this includes the five containers impounded on 17th June 2021 at Tema Port.
He implored the house that for security reasons, all rosewood donated to the National Cathedral Project is stored at the Forestry Commission Depot in Achimota, stating that as and when the Project requires wood, they will make use of the confiscated wood.
The Deputy Minister assured the House, and the good people of Ghana, that "our management of the natural resources of our country, including Rosewood, will continue to be anchored on the highest standards of transparency, integrity and candour for the benefit of the Ghanaian people, the owners of these resources".