Governments have come and gone, presidents and heads of state have come and gone, ministers responsible for lands and mineral resources have come and gone but none of these were able to stop galamsey or relegate it to the abyss of forgetfulness. Indeed Nana Addo has done what all the others could not do. The reason why this illegal mining could gain roots, thus becoming untouchable and unstoppable was that, influential people including top executives, politicians, chiefs and even top police and military officers, all had a stake in the galamsey by condoning, and conniving with young boys to do illegal mining for them.
Galamsey which was a crude form of the statement, “gather them and sell,” is an illegal mining activity by both young and old with the full support and connivance of big and influential men in the society. This illegal activity started long before Ghana gained its independence. Ghana happens to be the 10th leading producer of gold in the entire world and 2nd in Africa. This illegal mining activity became a blessing and a curse and this will be explained in detail in the article. The curse far outweighed the blessings due to health hazards, environmental degradation, the destruction of farm lands and the indiscriminate pollution of water bodies.
Mining itself is a major economic activity in many developing countries. In Ghana, small-scale mining was once a respected traditional vocation. In the late 80s, the government officially legalized small-scale mining. This decision brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted concession to peasants. The process was very cumbersome and slow, thus compelling many to mine illicitly. Galamsey began in earnest and boomed from regime to regime, only to intensify during Mahama’s regime. Since then galamsey became a source of livelihood for those who live near the legal mining communities. They were motivated to enter the illegal mining due to unemployment, poverty and increase in price of gold in the world market. As a result many people including the jobless have swarmed the mining areas to engage in galamsey. Even those whose cocoa trees could not yield much, have abandoned farming and joined the galamsey business.
Ghana is naturally well endowed with fresh water sources. The abundance of water sources was an envy of most countries that have no such water sources. Sadly enough, these illegal miners are busy polluting and destroying our enviable, fresh and drinkable water sources right under the very noses of governments, local authorities and concerned Ghanaians. Environmentalists and climate scientists have consistently warned the local population that if the destruction and pollution of the water sources persist, within the next 20 to 30 years, water will have to be imported from other countries. These shameless and illegal miners do not think or are even conscious of any precautionary measures to be taken to abate the nuisance. The mighty river Supong which runs in Asiakwa in the Eastern region is a pathetic example of continuous pollution. Supong River which once provided cool, clean and extremely refreshing water to drink has now turned smelly and yellowish. The river is now filled with mud, algae and weeds.
The situation became worse when the Chinese travelled to Ghana in their numbers and directed their journeys towards the gold mining areas in the Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions. Their presence was much felt during the rule of former president Mahama. Majority of them joined the illegal mining. Some of them were fronted and aided by Ghanaians to register small scale mining companies. Since they had a lot of money, they were able to pay the local chiefs for land to be released for their mining activities to begin. Even cocoa farms were sold to them to be destroyed for gold mining purposes. Heavy machines including excavators and tipper trucks were brought from China to help in their search for gold. Soon they began to destroy more farms and water bodies with cyanide and other dangerous products used to fish for the gold.
Concerned Ghanaians protested against the Chinese involvement in galamsey and small scale mining. The Chinese met the anger and protest of Ghanaians with force. So far not less than ten Ghanaians have been shot dead by the Chinese and not even a single Chinese was put before court. The gaping holes created by illegal mining have trapped and killed many children, women and farmers. Yet they are heavily protected by police and retired soldiers in military uniforms.
Small scale mining and not galamsey could have been an important source of livelihood for relatively low-income Ghanaians, as well as highly significant for the economy as a whole. Sadly enough, this area has been taking over by Chinese in contravention of the Mineral and Mining Act 206 and Act 703. These Acts outline clearly that small scale mining is strictly reserved for Ghanaians. If the law says so, why then do we allow Chinese citizens to enter and completely take over small-scale mining? The Chinese are smarter. They put Ghanaians in the fore-front to register the companies on their behalf.
The situation in the mining areas had gotten out of hand. Cocoa trees and other crops were being uprooted and destroyed by the Chinese to give way to galamsey and small-scale mining. The environment was being destroyed, water bodies were being polluted, gaping holes were being abandoned in the forest, abandoned holes have ensnared and killed many and the Chinese are gunning down and hacking people down at random. Several complaints and protests were launched by concerned Ghanaians for an effective leader and government to emerge to save the mining areas from illegal miners.
Happily in January 2017, a courageous leader, a visionary, a disciplined and an incorrupt man, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo was sworn in as the fifth president of Ghana. One Friday in
Kumasi, few months after assuming power as a deputy Minister for lands and mineral resources, Madam Barbara Oteng Gyasi disclosed in Kumasi that the NPP government would soon apply force and technology to fight illegal miners and warned those involved to refrain from the practice.
Her message fell on deaf ears. Military men and police officers were deployed to the mining areas and with the help of detective devices they were able to drive illegal miners away and all their excavators and other equipment were seized. A die-hard, stubborn Chinese woman named Aisha was arrested three times for illegal mining despite the government’s ban. She was released three times because she blackmailed the powers that be with tapes and videos she commissioned Chinese women to have sexual encounter with Ghanaian power brokers. After her startling revelations, she was arrested for the fourth and this arrest may probably be the last and she may either be imprisoned or repatriated to China.
Already majority of Ghanaians are applauding Nana Addo for his determination to relegate illegal mining into the abyss of forgetfulness and to ensure that small scale miners conform to the laws. The government has a great job on its hand to clean the polluted water bodies and to fill all the gaping holes to prevent further accidents.
By Stephen Atta Owusu