The surge of illegal mining commonly referred to as ‘galamsey’ has been a long-term worry to the people and political leaders of Ghana. The aftermath of this activity is very much disturbing as it affects the country’s environmental, social and health resources which is why government is keen on finding a lasting solution to fix the problem. Illegal small-scale mining has long thrived across Ghana.
In recent years, the media has given attention to the woes that illegal mining creates for the country which has currently been known among the media circles as the ‘Galamsey fight’. The Ghanaian media has been discussing these effects of galamsey as a way of assisting the government in tackling the issue. Television and radio shows have opened dialogues amongst officials and various experts with deep knowledge on the matter to explain their plans hatched in solving the issues of galamsey.
There have been several radio and television documentaries by various media houses and journalist on some of the mining towns where it is believed to be a hot spot for illegal miners and the permanent repercussions it leaves the town and the country at large. The fight to cease illegal mining and its various repercussions on the country’s environmental and health sectors can be dated as far back as the early 2000s but has still not yielded the intended result from the various governments.
Currently, the President of the country, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in the bid to curb the galamsey menace appointed a minister in charge of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor who has opted to collaborate with chiefs and other stakeholders in the mining sector to formulate policies and draw a proper road map in the quest to fight this menace that is costing the country millions.
The minister Mr. Jinapor on March 25, 2021, organized a meeting in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital. In attendance, were the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, chiefs, security capos and various government officials and stakeholders to have a goal-oriented discussion centered on lands and resources and how to protect them for the interest of all Ghanaians.
The minister fueled up with a lot of initiatives and support from many political actors to successfully apprehend persons directly or indirectly involved in this activity and legally deal with them. The Akufo-Addo led government on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, authorized the Ghana Armed Forces to begin an operation to forcefully remove all persons and logistics involved in illegal mining close to the country’s river bodies.
The exercise began on River Pra in the Western and Central regions. In a statement issued by the minister of information, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, said the move by the government of Ghana is necessitated “to ensure that mining within water bodies is stopped.”
This, according to the Minister of Information, is in furtherance to the resolutions of the final communique issued after the two-day stakeholder dialogue on small scale mining.
The lands minister on May 18, as part of his ministerial role embarked on an aerial tour of the river Pra basin with military officers and officials from ministry. His visit to the large basin which cover a large expanse of land in the Central, Western, Eastern, and Ashanti regions was to track the successive result of his first phase plan on illegal mining and protecting river bodies nationwide since ‘Operation Halt II’ was launched.
The phase three of ‘Operation Halt II’ which started on May 14 and ended on May 17, 2021, with an organization of 561 soldiers of all ranks to the tributaries of River Pra, Birim, Oda and Offin which covered Western, Central, Ashanti and Eastern regions under the command of Brigadier-General Michael Ayisi Amoah, Commanding the Southern Command, led to the wrecking of 49 excavators, 228 changfans (floating stages), 87 water pumping machines and 76 wooden structures, 7 generators, 6 motorbikes and one hunters gun.
He also requested the people of Anyinam in the Atiwa East District of the Eastern Region to help government in this fight. “You must also plant trees after your mining operations to protect our rivers and increase our forest cover,” he added. The minister on May 19 at a press briefing in Accra disclosed that the ministry is expected to present proposals before Parliament to revise the mining industry which entirely focused on amending the laws on licensing, issuance of permits, sanctioning and enforcement regimes in the mining sector.
The sector minister at the press briefing echoed the need to have a discourse with Kennedy Agyepong, MP for Assin Central on the allegations that government officials are involved in this activity. He called for the disclosure of names, so they are dealt with decisively as the government and the ministry is fixated on putting a halt to this menace.
He cautioned the citizenry to stay away from the danger zone as government would not be accountable for the safety of miners who return to the rivers and forest at night and firmly stated that the soldiers executed their mandate without targeting anyone based on the person’s political affiliation.
Although criticisms from organizations and people since the beginning of this initiative has been evident, the government and the ministry of land and natural resources are however imploring Ghanaians to collectively fight illegal mining and help government sanitize the environment and ensure viable and sustainable mining practices.
- Government must appoint Security Service Personnel to undertake a 24-hour surveillance to safeguard all illegal mining sites.
- The media must collaborate with government to set a common agenda in creating awareness of the effects of galamsey on the environment.
- NGOs must jointly work with government to create diverse job opportunities.
- Given the harmful implications of galamsey on the Ghanaian society as a whole, it is important that political actors desist from statements that undermine or question the capabilities of the minister and rather collectively assist the minister in fighting this activity.
- Government must reform laws governing excavators and logistics seized at illegal mining sites to be handed over to the Mineral commission to support their resources and strengthen their ability to enable them work effectively.
>>>The writer is Executive Director, Kandifo Institute. He can be reached on [email protected]