Ghana is practically begging China to help in the fight against Chinese nationals who are contributing to the destruction of its environment through illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, today [Monday], held an emergency meeting with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, and the Mayor of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Province, to discuss how they could collectively deal with the role of Chinese nationals in the illegal mining menace in Ghana.
The meeting saw the Minister ostensibly woo support from the Chinese to fight illegal mining as he concluded by saying, “we are begging you to help us address this particular difficulty that we are having.”
This in spite of the fact that Ghana’s laws are clear on illegal mining, and also restricts foreigners from engaging in the licensed small scale mining activity.
The Guangxi Zhuang Province is known to see the emigration of a number of Chinese nationals to engage in illegal mining in Ghana.
Chinese involvement in illegal mining has become rampant over the last decade with some blaming them for the proliferation of heavy machinery in illegal small-scale mining and the escalation of pollution in major water bodies.
The Minister’s meeting with the Chinese delegation took place as five Chinese nationals are facing prosecution in Ghana for illegally mining for gold in River Ankobra at Bamianko Dawule in the Nzema East Municipality.
Mr. Amewu described the recent arrests as encouraging, as he noted that, the role of some Chinese nationals in the illegal mining chain in Ghana, with Indians at the top, providing demand and Ghanaians at the bottom at the operational level.
This did not however mean the Chinese were not welcome to engage in mining activities, the Minister stressed.
“We are not saying Chinese governments or Chinese corporations should not come to Ghana. We want to work with you; but we want you to work in an environment that is more suitable so that when you are enjoying the returns on your investments, you will know that you really toiled for it.”
Environmentally friendly mining
The main issue here is credibility, as Mr. Amewu noted that the Akufo-Addo government was looking to ensure mining Ghana is done “in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.”
“Any person who will come to this country and not abide by that, we will not be prepared to work with that person. So we will be calling on you to reach out to your fellow Chinese from this particular community that they need to come together for us to resolve this problem.”
Since he assumed the portfolio as the Minister of Lands and Forestry, Mr. Amewu has hinted that government would start using drones and other modern technology to fight illegal mining in Ghana to ensure the protection of water bodies.
As another special intervention, he also revealed government was in talks with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), to plant trackers into earth moving equipment known to be used by illegal miners who are operating deep inside the forests.
Ahead of the realization of these initiatives, indications from the Minister are that the ministry has so far been engaged in media campaigns for the time being.
“On our own, we have started some media campaigns over the last two-three weeks. The public sympathy is so high that we believe seriously that any action that we take will be supported by all Ghanaians,” he said.
“In every single community, there are chiefs, landowners, politicians… and so these actions are collaborative actions so we have sounded a clear warning, especially to those responsible whether politicians or chiefs. We will come after you.”
Battling galamsey will protect Chinese investments
On the whole, Mr. Amewu said the arrival of the Chinese delegation was very good news to his ministry, military and other related agencies.
“We are prepared to work with you and collaborate with you to address this problem. Help us address the issue of illicit mining… The people here are your people. You speak the same language with them and they understand you better. So let us begin the fight,” he said to the Chinese delegation.
“Nobody is going to lose at the end of this fight because as we keep on saying, a sustainable environment free of the pollution of water bodies, free of the destruction of our forest, free of the degradation of our land is a credit to the Chinese because a lot of Chinese investments are in Ghana.”
Ghana has a long-standing relationship with China, that has seen the Asian powerhouse loan several millions of dollars for Ghana’s infrastructural development.