The problem of illegal mining or “galamsey” has caused so much havoc in Ghana that the government is now determined to deal with it once and for all. As has been stated over and over again, the government is not against mining activities as long as they are carried out in a legal and sustainable manner. If mining is carried out in a legal and sustainable manner, it not only creates substantial wealth to facilitate the socio-economic development of the country but also ensures that there is appropriate reclamation of land as well as preservation of the environment.
On the other hand, illegal mining or “galamsey” results in pollution and destruction of water bodies, creation of death traps in form of uncovered pits, degradation of the environment and destruction of farmlands. Other destructive effects are the devastating impact of cyanide and other harmful chemicals used by the illegal miners. These harmful chemicals seep deep into the soil and affect the plant we grow as food. When such food is eaten, they adversely affect the health consumers.
Another disastrous effect from illegal mining activities is the loss of revenue to the country. In 2016, for example, Ghana lost $2.3 billion through illegal mining activities. The losses represent royalties and taxes which the illegal miners did not pay to the state. The negative effects of illegal mining in the country calls for drastic measures aimed at addressing the menace.
To effectively deal with the issue and manage the menace, the government has instituted a five-year programme to address it once and for all. The programme known as Multi-lateral Mining Integrated Project is aimed at solving the “galamsey” menace.
Under this project, a number of measures are to be rolled-out to effectively address the problem. The measures are: first, creation of sustained awareness of the devastating effect of the activities of illegal miners. Second, ensuring strict enforcement of existing regulations in the mining sector and thirdly, offering alternative livelihoods for people currently engaged in illegal mining by organising them into co-operatives. The co-operatives will be engaged in legally controlled and properly regulated application of technology and enforcement of the law.
The government’s determination to clamp down on illegal mining is not xenophobic attack on foreign nationals. Rather it is a national commitment to protect the integrity of the environment and make life better for all. All illegal miners are, therefore, expected to take advantage of the project so as to work in groups in approved designated mining sites. The designated mining sites will have in place a central processing plant for the mined ore to be processed for a fee.
This will ensure proper monitoring and supervision of mining activities in the country. If this is done, the expected royalties and taxes will be paid to the state and land reclamation will also be carried out. In fact, land reclamation and greening of the environment can also be a source of income for those to be engaged in them while water bodies will be preserved for present and future generation.
The fight against “galamsey” is a tough one. It must be won at all costs in the interest of the nation no matter what.
BY KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY, ACCRA.