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The renewed efforts at fighting galamsey must not wane

By Victoria Antwi Sarpong

 

Illegal mining, popularly referred to as galamsey, has long been identified as an activity that should not be encouraged.

 

Galamsey is a local Ghanaian term which means illegal small-scale gold mining in Ghana, and workers in illegal mining such workers are known as galamseyers who mine gold, independent of mining companies, digging small working (pits, tunnels and sluices) by hand.

 

The effects of galamsey are grievous—the pollution and killing of the nation’s water bodies and other forms of  environmental degradation, harrowing death traps of galamsey pits that are killing people by the day, destruction of farmlands and the devastating impact of cyanide and other harmful chemicals used by galamseyers among others.

 

Furthermore, galamsey could be likened to the slave trade because, first, just as our forefathers could not be entirely exonerated from the atrocities of the slave trade that robbed Africa of her kith and kin and visited untold hardships on them, including death, so are some Ghanaians including very important personalities because of the extent to which they go to connive with foreigners to engage in the galamsey menace and degrade the environment.

 

Again, like the slave trade, those who are subjected to the drudgery earn very little, with their lives on the lifeline, while foreigners are the principal beneficiaries of galamsey, as most of the proceeds are taken out of the country. Sadly and fallaciously, the belief ‘’when people die in the galamsey pit, the minerals increase” has gained grounds.

 

In an effort to curb the galamsey menace, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources which is mandated to ensure the sustainable utilization of the country’s resources has, over the years, come out with various measures. 

 

It is easy to recall some of the laws and interventions that have been used to fight this “Goliath” called galamsey.

 

In 2012, a Ministerial Task Force was constituted to fight the menace. The immediate impact was amazing as thousands of people, mostly Chinese, were arrested and deported. The exercise was not sustainable because the Task Force could not be on the ground at all times.

 

In 2015, Mining Committees were constituted at various districts to monitor mining activities in their jurisdictions. Membership of these committees included the District Chief Executive and Traditional Rulers. This effort also failed to make the desired impact.

 

In 2016, the Minerals and Mining Act, 703 (Act 2006) was amended to give the Police and the Task Force and their collaborators the legal authority and impetus required to seize the proceeds and equipment (excavators) used for the illegal mining. The motive was to cripple the financiers who hide behind the operators but enjoy the chunk of the returns in these illegal operations. The galamseyers were not deterred and remained in business with impunity. In other words, the menace has persisted, defying all the forces mobilized against it.

 

Apparently, the forces against galamsey are also not willing to give up. It is now “David” against “Goliath”—and the “David” is the Media Coalition against Galamsey which is armed with the slogan “#Stop Galamsey Now”.

 

On March 27, 2017, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, Managing Director of Graphic Communications Group was on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show expressing his abhorrence at the rate of devastation caused by galamsey and his resolve to lead a media crusade to uproot it.

 

The public support received by the Media Coalition against Galamsey from the clergy, civil society, traditional rulers and individuals is reassuring.

 

The contributions of Mr Edem Srem, a freelance journalist, who has, over the years, made harrowing documentaries on the galamsey menace for public education, can also hardly go unnoticed. It was actually his latest documentary titled ‘Nation Wreckers’ that captured the attention of many. No one watches that documentary and remains the same. It speaks to the heart and calls for action.

 

The “David” has also manifested against the “Goliath” in the form of a renewed and overwhelming political will which took the form of a declaration by the President that the threat of not voting for him and his party at the 2020 polls would not deter his government from fighting galamsey.

 

The President’s response to the Chinese Embassy that government was just enforcing her mining laws when the Embassy commented on the approach being used was also apt.  

 

The sector Minister, Hon. John Peter Amewu, has also demonstrated a lot of political will, having vowed to see the end of galamsey and having actually taken steps in that direction. For example, the Ministry of Lands and National Resources has launched a project dubbed: The Multilateral Integrated Mining Approach which hinges on three pillars—the Law, Enforcement and Technology. Essentially, the law will be enforced to the letter while technology, such as drones and other tracking devices will be used to track down defaulters.

 

It is important to note that Governments have lost the fight against many societal evils due to the fear of losing elections, but it is the nation’s prayer that the current political will, will not wane and that all efforts to resist galamsey will be sustained.

 

Equally, the support base for resistance to galamsey must remain solid. It is time to come together as one people with a common destiny, devoid of political considerations in the fight against a common enemy.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

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