In the days of biblical Israel, during the reign of King Solomon, gold was recorded to be a common part of their lives that became available to households. This was because it was used judiciously and mined legally for the growth of the nation of Israel. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our beloved country, Ghana.
As a nation blessed with a natural resource such as gold in abundance which used to be the significant accessory of every child at birth, one would think we would be counted among the powerful nations of the world. After all, gold is highly regarded everywhere, but that has not been the fate of Ghana which is affected by the illegal mining of gold, infamous for its name Galamsey.
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Over the years, galamsey has become a high-quality menace in the discussion on political tables of those who benefit from it and those who seek that the government of the day put in strategic conscious measures that will cease the illegal mining of gold in the country. Yet, the question remains, ‘How long are we going to keep singing the same song?’ How long would galamsey keep being a topic of interest while the ruins it leaves behind are undermined? Some persons argue that small-scale gold mining has seen a growth in the economy, it seems like they chose selective amnesia and forget to mention the side effects that illegal gold mining causes.
Speaking on JoyNews PM Express, Inusah Fuseni, the former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources stated that the side effects of galamsey is not only restricted to how harmful it is to humans, but also its destruction of the ecosystem, he noted that the side effects of galamsey are widespread and causes health challenges in humans which includes; kidney diseases from the heavy metals, deformities in childbirth, stillbirths and maternal mortality as a result of expecting mothers exposure and consumption of harmful toxins through water bodies, ingestion of food from cultivated contaminated lands, and the air they breathe.
In his words, he noted that ‘It is always a known fact that heavy metals can cause dislocations in the eco-system in the mining areas which pollute water bodies and kill the fishes. These same fishes are ingested by humans.’ Building his concern from the case study carried out by the pathologist, Professor Paul Opoku Sampene Ossei, the former minister has urged the government to spearhead a conscious and determined effort to stop and prevent illegal mining activities in the country.
Although the concern for galamsey hits on the destruction of lives, it also destroys the country’s forest reserves as its minerals are exploited illegally. This was highlighted by the Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, Daryl Bosu who opined while speaking on Joy News PM Express, that although mining does benefit the country from the sales of its minerals, the cost of mining to the environment and the well-being of the individuals outweighs the benefits. Daryl Bosu called for national action to address the situation with effective steps by the government to protect forest reserves from further incursion
The government of the day has stated that it is doing everything in its power to stop the illegal mining of gold. However, this public announcement has oftentimes gone without backed-up actions. A man who is burdened by the weight of his overgrown hair will find a way to have it cut down even if he has to do that himself. If the government says it is fighting galamsey, how much effort is it putting into it? Or perhaps, it is trite to say the issue of galamsey does not ache as deep as the other issues of the day.
Ken Ashigbey, the convener of Media Coalition against Illegal Mining, likened illegal miners to terrorists whose activities threaten the nation’s ecosystem. He questioned why the government is not treating the culprits in the same manner in which the government handles treason and treachery. Furthermore, he questioned the commitment of the government to clamping down on galamsey in the country.
In his words, ‘some well-known small scale mining companies such as Akonta and Heritage Imperial mining companies have been found culpable in engaging in illegal mining, however, its managers are walking freely.’ The activist has called for strict laws in dealing with individuals and companies engaging in illegal mining.
Responding to the various concerns on galamsey while speaking at Datano in Amansie South District of the Ashanti Region, the current Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, stated that despite the numerous challenges hindering the fight against galamsey, the government is involved in the concerns and is seeking more interventions to help fight against illegal mining in the country. Mr. Jinapor also commended the effort of the task force led by the General Officer Commanding the Central Command, Brigadier General Joseph Aphour, who cleared the site of illegal miners, demolished their infrastructure and, halted their operations. The illegal miners were arrested and six excavators and mining equipment were seized by the task force team.
‘All of you can see the level of devastation, it should baffle all of us as citizens, policymakers, and stakeholders in this fight how an operation like this in the heart of the forest and the far away areas of our country can go on without notice by the police, the chiefs, local political leadership, and even the inspectorate division of the Minerals Commission here.
These are the questions I, as the Minister intend to seek answers to.’
Mr. Jinapor also reminded Ghanaians that the fight against galamsey was a collective one that required every citizen and member of the local communities to work to ensure its success
The government has yet again given its assurances of working to end illegal mining as it has many times before. The question remains, how long are we going to keep singing the same song about galamsey? How long should the lament continue? The best apology is a changed behavior. Rather than having incessant meetings and public addresses on galamsey, we urge the government to show its citizens that it is working against illegal mining through its actions against culprits. If sensitizations are required to educate and enlighten the minds of the locals in affected communities on the hazards of illegal mining and how they can play an effective part in the fight, we employ the government to organize such sensitization for the people.
Gold has its worth, but should it be at the detriment to the lives of citizens?
Source: Awe Ogon
The author is a Communication consultant, Lawyer and writer