Friday, 5 May 2017

Support of the judiciary in the fight against illegal mining

A number of groups have thrown their support behind the government after the announcement to stop illegal mining in the country. It is no secret that the threat to the environment due to the activities of illegal mining is so frightening that if nothing is done now, Ghana may grapple with potable water challenges in the next two decades. What needs to be stated clearly is that, the government is not against small scale mining but the illegal activities that destroy the environment, particularly, water bodies. Fortunately, the general populace appear convinced about the impending threats and are therefore, ready to support the government to end this menace. Support for this crusade has come from Occupy Ghana, a pressure group, the media, chiefs, numerous concerned citizens and many others. Their common goal is to save the degradation of the environment.

Again, some illegal miners have pledged to end their activities whilst some small scale mining groups have also surrendered the excavators used for the illegal activities. One group of people that have joined the fight is the Judiciary. It is heart-warming to note that the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, has designated seven High Courts and seven Circuit Courts in seven regions to deal with all mining offences. The support given by the judiciary shows that the fight against illegal mining or “galamsey” can only succeed if we all play the role expected of us to protect natural resources and water bodies for the current and future generations. The role of the courts is very important because if offenders are not tried and punished according to law, the people engaged in the illegal activity will not be deterred to stop it.

However, if the judicial system is made to understand this menace, the laws of Ghana would be applied fairly to address the matter. The upholding the rule of law in matters of this nature is necessary to ensure that offenders are not given space to carry out their illegal activities. To help judges understand and appreciate the complex issues involved, those earmarked for the designated courts should be given regular training to equip them with the required knowledge and skills needed to handle all cases fairly and efficiently.

In this connection, the Chief Justice deserves special commendation for coming out with this measure to support the fight against illegal mining. The designated seven High Courts and seven Circuit Courts meant to handle cases involving mining offenses have come in at the right time because the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015 (Act 900) has introduced new offences which confer jurisdiction on the High and Circuit Courts.

The argument by certain people that those involved in illegal mining would be put out of employment is unacceptable. This is because we cannot encourage people to do the wrong things as a way of earning their income. Such people can be trained to undertake legal activities that will not threaten the environment and put lives in danger. It is expected that all and sundry will continue to consistently support the fight against illegal mining activities so that the environment will be preserved and made safe for the current and future generations.

By Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, Head of Public Relations, Ghana Standards Authority.

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