Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The 'Galamsey' Menace

The rate at which Ghana’s land is being degraded through mining leaves much to be desired. Informal or illegal mining also known as ‘galamsey’ in Ghana dates back decades before the arrival of the colonial masters. This has become a major source of livelihood for persons living in mining communities. Some of these illegal miners are of the view that, the benefit they derive from giving out their land to mining companies is nothing to write home about. Another school of thought has it that ‘galamsey’ provides guaranteed jobs for the youth and reduces crime in those communities. The earnings they make from the sale of their spoils cannot in anyway be comparable to the damage they cause to the environment especially our water bodies. The small scale mining act was passed to legalise small scale mining in a bid check ‘galamsey’.

However, the move appears to be yielding little or no dividend as ‘galamsey’ activities seem to be becoming brisk rather than waning as reported by the Ghana Chamber of Mines in 2008. One worrying aspect of this whole galamsey canker is the ‘tom brown feature’, how it has discoloured our water bodies. They say “water is life”, but in the current circumstance, water is to say the least poison and for that matter death. The Oda, Birim, Densu and Offin Rivers to mention just a few are heavily polluted. These rivers do not only serve as a source of raw water for the Ghana Water Company Limited but also major fishing and farming purposes. In the Daily Graphic of 3rd October, 2013, the Ghana Water Company Limited gave out a strong warning that, the rate at which these reckless mining expeditions are polluting our river bodies, it would not be long before the company would be unable to bear the increasing cost of water treatment caused by the heavy pollution. It is therefore not surprising that it has been reported that the GWCL’s water treatment plant at Kyebi in the Eastern Region has been shut down due to the abnormal turbidity of the Birim River.

The Water Resources Commission has also been monitoring the water quality of about 40 water bodies since 2005. The results as obtained between 2010 and 2011 are despicable. Most of the water bodies have predictably dropped from a quality of ‘good’ to ‘poor’ within two years. In the past few years, there was a renewed effort to halt illegal mining. An Inter-ministerial Task Force Against Illegal Mining was constituted in 2013 to clampdown on these illegal mining activities. It appears their activities which led to the confiscation of several mining equipment, the dismantling of hundreds of illegal mining sites and the kicking out of those miners, including Chinese from the sites was short-lived. The escalation of the ‘galamsey’ menace despite numerous calls for its termination is a manifestation of how indiscipline and lawless we have become as a people. It is even more terrible to such an extent that stakeholders such as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, Chiefs, Police and Military commanders who live in mineral rich communities are alleged to have become the backbone for these illegal miners and their sophisticated equipment. What is more disheartening is the ease with which foreign nationals especially, Chinese, who might even be illegal immigrants, also engage in this reckless activities.

Going forward, the foreign nationals who appear to be spearheading these illegal mining expeditions should be arrested and dealt with ruthlessly. Mere deportation does not seem to be working. The Small-Scale Gold Mining Act of 1989 has also been on the shelf for far too long. It needs to be used. When the government officially legalised the practice in the late 1980s, it brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted mining concessions to peasants. The process was cumbersome and slow and therefore forced many people to mine illicitly. This must also be taken care of immediately. Tours by stakeholders to ascertain the extent of damage should stop forthwith. The time has come for the law to take its course.

Besides enforcing the law, there is the need to create alternative source of livelihood for the inhabitants of the mining communities to keep them away from further inflicting havoc on the land. The youth and other members of these communities should be engaged in efforts to restore the environment.


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