HEAD of Communications at Minerals Commission, Mr. Isaac Abraham, has revealed the reasons why illegal gold and diamond mining activities (otherwise known as galamsey or galamseying) by both Ghanaians and foreign nationals cannot be legalised.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Today on Wednesday,Mr. Abraham expressed fears that Ghana will be completely doomed if the commission legalises illegal gold mining activities.
According to him, the proposal to allow galamseying in Ghana, a country already suffering from the obnoxious effects of this canker, was tantamount to proposing disorderliness in an already chaotic hell, looking at the upsurge of illegal mining its wanton destruction of the country’s environment and water bodies.
He was of the view that the activities of illegal miners cannot be legalised and regularised by the commission because most of these miners were operating gold mining activities in prohibited areas in gold-rich communities across the country.
Mr. Abraham was also quick to state that the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (703) provides for Ghanaians who want to venture into small-scale mining activities to go through the process of acquiring license to operate so that their operations can be regulated within the terms of their licence.
He stressed that this is the only window for one to operate legally in the extractive sub-sector to avoid any infractions that may arise out of cutting corners.
“So we cannot legalise the illegalities of the miners who have consistently decided to mine outside the law and prefer operating their mining activities in prohibited areas in gross violation of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (703),” he noted.
Some of these prohibited areas that one cannot mine, according to Mr. Abraham, are water bodies, townships, around high tensions and railway lines.
Others, he mentioned, include wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves, cemeteries, mausoleums, sacred groves, areas earmarked for developmental projects by the district assembly, areas pre-blocked out before license is granted for mining activities and areas already given out as mining lease and or under prospecting licence.
He said if one drives across the country, especially in mining regions, these areas mentioned above are exactly where majority of these illegal mining activities are commonly found.
“This tells you that these perpetuators are not ready to come under any regulations,” he disclosed.
On the growing concern of dwindling fortunes of the country’s cocoa industry due to illegal mining, Mr. Abraham indicated that cocoa growing regions in the country were currently under siege, following activities of illegal miners, particularly in parts of Brong Ahafo, Western and Ashanti Regions.
That, Mr. Abraham noted, accounts for the severe poverty hitting cocoa farmers in the face.
He also bemoaned the practice where land owners and farmers give out their farm lands to illegal gold miners for cash.
That development, he asserted, has come about because indigenes in these communities were gradually losing interest in farming as they see returns on mining activities as more attractive and far-rewarding but forgetting that gold is a finite resource and will deplete with time.
Available statistics to Today indicate that every year, the country experiences a reduction of about 100,000 tons in the production of cocoa, with global reduction trends expected to hit about one million.
Mr. Abraham said proponents of the small-scale mining law were mindful of the potentials the sub-sector holds for employment and income generation for the country’s teaming youth in mining communities, for which reason it was exclusively preserve of Ghanaians.
“But what we see now in Ghana is that foreign nationals, particularly of Chinese origin with connivance with Ghanaians, invade farm lands, water bodies and forest reserves and illegally engage in mining activities with impunity.”
“…So should we go ahead to legalise these illegal Chinese miners and their faceless Ghanaian collaborators to operate in these prohibited areas?” he quizzed.
Mr. Abraham asserted that the clandestine activities of galamsey bring in its wake economic, environmental, human, health and social problems to the society and the country as a whole and therefore should not be countenance.
For his part, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. John Peter Amewu, kicked against illegal activities of gold miners which activities destroyed water bodies and farm lands and called on the lawmakers and chiefs to collaborate with government to clamp down illegal mining activities.
He was amazed of upsurge rate of galamsey activities in gold rich communities in Ghana and disclosed that 60 to 70 per cent of excavators in Ghana are used for illegal mining activities.
The sector minister said the excavators do not go into the construction of roads as intended but used for such illegal activities.
With the use of technology, he said, the country could be able to determine where the excavators and other equipment were going and for what purposes.
“There are technologies to determine where equipment are working and the country must take advantage of such technologies to stop illegal mining,” he stated.
He added that “the difficulty with the current rampant nature of illegal mining activities was as a result of the fact that we are not applying the rule of the game that is the law.”
He said the country needs to further decentralise the branches of the commission down to the district level to enhance the authorisation process.
“Sitting in Accra and issuing mining authorisation is worsening the problem because of the long duration. The more authorisation is delayed, the more they engage in illegal mining,” he explained.
The country needs to speed up the decentralisation process that can grant access to effective monitoring and evaluation to address this problem.
Similarly, speaking on this matter, President and Chairman of Groupe Nduom (GN), Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, described galamsey activities as “wicked” and therefore kicked against its legalisation in the country.
Dr. Nduom’s statement comes on the heels of a call by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tarkwa-Nsuaem constituency in the Western Region, Hon. George Mireku Duker, for illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, to be legalised.
According to Dr. Nduom, it is an “irresponsible” call for galamsey to be legalised.
“Galamsey is bad for our forests, water bodies, human bodies, mind and soul. Rather than this irresponsible call for legalising galamsey, Ghanaian small scale miners must be organised, trained, registered, confined to safe grounds and monitored with disciplined force to ensure they do not continue wreaking havoc to our existence,” Dr. Nduom proposed.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also raised grave concern about the destruction of water bodies, farm lands and forest reserves by illegal miners and reiterated the need to protect the environment and restore lands and water bodies as the country marks its 60th anniversary.
Expressing concern over the alarming rate at which the country’s natural resources were being depleted, the president stated that he was confident that “we will continue to make ourselves worthy inheritors of this land.”
“We are endangering the very survival of the beautiful and blessed land that our forebears bequeathed to us. The dense forests, that were home to varied trees, plants and fauna, have largely disappeared. Today, we import timber for our use, and the description of our land as a tropical forest no longer fits the reality. Our rivers and lakes are disappearing, and those that still exist are all polluted.”
The president noted that inasmuch as “We have a right to exploit the bounties of the earth and extract the minerals and even redirect the path of the rivers, but we do not have the right to denude the land of the plants and fauna nor poison the rivers and lakes.”
“There is nothing we can do better to pay homage to those who fought to free us from bondage than to dedicate this 60th independence anniversary to protecting our environment and regenerating the lands and water bodies,” he added.