Galamsey has become the test for competence in the management of the expectations of Ghanaians and a “trojan horse” for governments in the past four decades. From all indications, galamsey is going to live with us until everyone undertakes to eradicate it as a shared responsibility.
It is a little over a year since the media in Ghana with help from the Ministry of Information, launched the Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG); a sustained campaign to hold government and other stakeholders to account and get them to act to stop the illegality and push for sustainable mining activities.
Various stakeholders, including government and some traditional leaders have declared their commitment to the fight in eight (8) town-hall meetings and stakeholder engagements held in various districts in the 8 galamsey endemic regions, as well as during press conferences. They unanimously agree that it is time to restore our water bodies, forests, farmlands, etc. and to sanitize the entire mining environment.
We note with humility, a significant reduction in reported cases of galamsey activities, an appreciable reduction in turbidity levels in some river bodies, and the active involvement of other stakeholders in the fight against illegal mining, thus offering those affected by mining, some voice and ownership of the campaign.
Along the line, we have come across different opinions on how to attain sustainable mining. There is however near unanimity that we cannot allow the damage and degradation to resume after the lifting of the ban on small scale mining. We therefore urge government to consider the integration of the following ideas gathered from stakeholders as constructive feedback for a community driven solution and continuous improvement:
Operation Vanguard is a strategic intervention that needs more support to continue its operations in a collaborative manner with extended time and in accordance with the rule of law. The reinforcement being provided by the Ghana Army in the form of surveillance on water bodies, is a timely assistance to the campaign and should be maintained. Operation Vanguard also needs to be supported with necessary human capacity and logistics including night vision equipment, drones and other technology to aid the fight.
There is need for the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be decentralized and equipped to carry out regular inspections as well as enforcing laws and regulations. In addition, they have to expedite actions on transforming and regularizing “galamseyers” into small scale mining licenses, as they get Parliament to ratify all the small scale mining licenses under a certificate of urgency. The participation of foreigners in small scale mining activities, using all manner of cover-ups must be ruled out in the regulations to stem the illegality. The Chinese involvement in the illegality most especially, has been empirically established with the numbers arrested and this should be confronted diplomatically. Equally important, the Multi-Sectoral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) should be launched and executed immediately, with all stakeholders, especially the media given copies so they can track progress.
Finally, we note with concern that among the chain of stakeholders, the weakest link so far has been the justice delivery system; from investigators, to prosecutors and the judiciary. Our courts need to incorporate deterrence in applying the law to people found guilty. The prosecution of financiers and the ultimate beneficiaries of the illegality is long overdue. The media is expected to focus on investigative work so as to expose these financiers, name and shame them while aiding with prosecution.
This is a critical national course and it is the hope and expectation of the MCAG that we should not sacrifice this noble course on the altar of any partisan or sectoral parochial interest. We call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to support the course to ensure sustainable mining activities and do away with the illegality that is destroying our environment.
The Media Coalition Against Galamsey