Ensure greater law enforcement, compliance in natural resource sector – Minister
He said this would lead to the reduction or total elimination of revenue mismanagement and leakages in the sector.
Mr Owusu was speaking at the opening of a forum on the Eight Civil Society Annual Parallel Review of the Natural Resources and Environment Sector in Accra.
The two-day event was on the theme: “Safeguarding the Environment for Posterity for Whom the Bell Tolls.”
He said law enforcement was a fundamental problem in the natural resource sectors and needed to be addressed.
Mr Owusu called for the need to reform the country’s mining practices and urged the media to play its watchdog role to ensure that laws were enforced.
“We cannot afford to allow a few people to exploit our collective natural resource wealth for their own benefit,” he added.
Mr Owusu said the ban on small scale mining would soon be lifted, but “we cannot go back to our old ways of irresponsible mining, which threaten our water bodies, marine ecology and the industries that depend on water.”
The Deputy Minister commended the Operation Vanguard Operatives, who continue to serve in various mining spots, arresting, foiling and deterring illegal mining activities.
“We will continue to be ruthless with such illegal mining activities if that is what it takes to restore sanity in our forest and mining sectors,” he said.
Mr Owusu said good governance in the natural resources sector had been a challenge to ensure effective social justice, accountability, transparency, effective participation of citizens and the private sector, and inter-sectoral coordination.
He said it was, therefore, welcoming that the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance Programme (NREG) was introduced to address some challenges in the mining, forest and environment sectors.
The NREG programme, he said, had brought progress in the country’s natural resources sector.
Mr Owusu said through this programme, the country developed the National Climate Change Policy and Strategy, a New Forest and Wildlife Policy and the Mineral and Mining Policy.
“Some major progress, including the increases in minerals and forest revenues were seen and these were important progress, which set the country on a path to better manage our resources,” he said.
The artisanal logging industry and the mining industry were, however, not fully addressed in this programme.
Mr Owusu said it was not in doubt that small scale mining had an important place in the economy and wealth generation, adding that it was that latent potential that the Multilateral Integrated Mining Project sought to harness to improve the economy without the negative environmental, social and health impacts.
He commended Kasa Initiative Ghana, organisers of the event and the various coalitions for their sustained engagement on the natural resource discourse.
Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, the Chairperson of Kasa Initiative Ghana, said the objective of the NREG programme was to address the governance failures, which led to the decline in the quality of the forests and environment.
She said it was also to help the nation appreciate the costs associated with the development options in the extractive sector, which impacted negatively on natural resources.
The Kasa Initiative provided a platform for Civil Society to work together to transform the mining sector from its current state of irresponsible mining to a responsible sector that could contribute to the sustainable development objectives of the country.
She noted that environmental degradation was increasing even with the NREG interventions and that Ghana was confronted with uncontrolled logging, fishing and pollution of rivers, especially through the mining activities.