Ghanaian Media Must Combat Galamsey To Save The Nation

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Here are two African proverbs about the environment: “A tree that is not taller than you cannot shade you”- Congo. “Man’s greed leads to the destruction of the environment” –Ghana.

On Thursday, March 23, 2017, the Daily Graphic carried a banner headline on its front page thus: “Graphic, GIBA, media to stop galamsey”. The said story was developed on Page 54 of the paper under a sub-heading: “Graphic, GIBA, media partners to launch campaign to stop galamsey.”

The call for campaign against galamsey was attributed to the Editor of the Daily Graphic, Mr Ransford Tetteh at a ceremony where Kasapreko Company presented some cartons of its bottle water to the Graphic Communications Group Ltd in connection with the World Water Day.

Mr Tetteh is reported to have lamented the country’s water bodies were being heavily polluted by illegal mining of galamsey operators. “It is a campaign to protect our water bodies. The Pra, Tano, and Birim are almost gone.” Then he added, “It is only the Volta that is reliable. We need to fight this menace or we will end up importing water,” he opined. When I read that part of the story that, “It is only the Volta that is reliable”, I laughed mentally. Who told my visionary former GJA President that “the Volta is reliable?”  

The object of this article is not to pretend to be an expert on galamsey issues. But if I were permitted I would share some findings of my Research Paper (RP) for my MA in Development Studies at the International Institute Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands, as recently as 2013-2014 academic year.

It will be recalled that in May 2013, former President John Dramani Mahama, inaugurated a high-powered inter ministerial committee against illegal small-scale mining in the country. That committee was simply dubbed ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE.

The powerful taskforce was made up five solid ministers of state, the military, the police, the national security and other security agencies and mandated among others to find a lasting solution to galamsey menace confronting the nation. In fact, their terms of reference included but not restricted to seizure of equipment; arrest and prosecution of both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians who fail to obtain licenses or renewing of their licenses before mining; deportation of illegal foreigners engaged in galamsey.

 Above all, the taskforce was empowered “to hold MMDCEs and their DISEC accountable for any illegal mining activities in their areas of jurisdiction.” This was contained in the speech delivered by President Mahama on the day the ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE was inaugurated. I accessed it on GBC website in 2013 and it formed the basis of my Research Paper. When the actual taskforce’s operations took off in June 2013, the whole world was set on an edge like anxious spectators watching Mohamed Ali and George Foreman’s super heavy weight championship fight in 1974 in Zaire, now DR Congo. It was ‘butu-butu-butu’, apologies to Kwatriot of yester year.  When some foreign galamsey offenders were arrested, detained and taken to their respective embassies for deportation, the episode caused global stir in some diplomatic circles and the international media. Ghana was seen as a xenophobic country.

It was against this backdrop that later in 2013, when I had the opportunity for further studies   abroad, I decided to do a content analysis of media coverage of galamsey for my thesis. I wanted to find out how the media do “frame” galamsey or illegal gold mining in Ghana, within the framework of sustainable development. So, my topic was “ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNICATION IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: A Content Analysis of Media Coverage of ‘Galamsey’ (illegal gold Mining in Ghana – 2013-2014)”.

For methodology, I relied solely on secondary data collection by accessing galamsey related- articles through online research for the period under review. I used specific criteria to determine which media outlets published most articles on environment and galamsey issues since the inauguration of the Anti-Galamsey Taskforce. Based on that, I selected the Daily Graphic, Myjoyonline and the Ghanaian Chronicle from the local media outlets.

With the help of my supervisor, I picked BBC, China Daily, and the New York Times as my foreign media. Upon identifying my Problem Statement and formulating my Research Questions and objectives, my Assumption was that galamsey was causing environmental havoc to Ghana. In other words, before the study I assumed that it was only the environmental problems that galamsey was posing to Ghana.

However, after critically reading through about 50 different galamsey-related stories from the six selected media outlets, and doing what was referred to as Sample Coding Sheet based on the raw data, for “Framing Assessment”, I was shocked to realise that apart from environmental havoc, galamsey was causing socio-economic, politico-cultural, safety/security as well as diplomatic problems for Ghana.

Thus, in terms of environmental problems, rivers and water bodies were being contaminated and poisoned by heart; farmlands were being devastated and forest reserves were being destroyed beyond imagination. In terms of socio-economic problems, because of the use chemical such as mercury and cyanide by the galamsey operators, some rural women have been taking their children into the mines, thereby exposing their innocent kids to serious health hazards. Another social vice identified was that, in some deprived communities in the country, school children were dropping out of schools because of galamsey, while galamsey operators were luring rural girls into child prostitution.

In terms of safety and security, it was found out that most galamsey operators were being exposed to danger of having their hands amputated due to explosions in the mines. Worse still, some illegal miners were being buried alive in galamsey pits on daily basis. Some of these incidents were hardly known to the public. It is only when the media exposed some of the major pit collapses that claim many lives that the public gets to know about these dangerous events.

Again, the content analysis of the foreign media indicated that they were not too bothered about the environmental havoc of pollution of water bodies in the country. They focused on how the reduction of galamsey operations was affecting the price of gold on the world market.

Most of foreign media “framed” galamsey in such a way that emphasis was placed on deportation of foreign miners by Ghanaian authorities. The foreign media hardly explained to their readers the reason for the deportation of illegal miners. This framing of galamsey projected a very negative image of Ghana to the outside world. Some high-powered foreign delegates came to hold talks with Ghanaian authorities to tamper justice with  mercy;  treat illegal foreign galamsey operators with human face. This is where the “environmental diplomacy” of galamsey emerged.  

Furthermore, the study revealed that galamsey was producing armed robbers and illegal gun traffickers and drug users who have been terrorizing our brothers and sisters living in galamsey operating communities in the country. And the executive, the legislature and the judiciary seemed to have been rendered powerless; and were only watching like ‘legba’ or statue while galamsey activities were polluting water bodies with impunity. As for the ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE, only Jesus knows whether it is still in existence or it has become a toothless something.

It is therefore, recommended strongly, that the Ghanaian media must stand up and be counted.  They must respond to the call by the Graphic Communications Group Ltd, by putting all political differences aside and take the fight to the doorsteps of galamsey operators. This must be done through fierce campaign and public education to prick the conscience of greedy compatriots to save the present and future generations of our beloved Mother land Ghana.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD), Accra. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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