You are here: HomeNews2018 09 11Article 683881

Opinions of Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

The power intoxicated politicians mustn’t keep playing with Ghanaians emotions

I cannot for the life of me, comprehend how and why any true nationalist could oppose the NPP government’s estimable efforts to curb the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners.

Indeed, the thoughtful sceptics are absolutely right: politics is a dirty game, full of inveterate propagandists and manipulating geezers.

Apparently, it is our part of the world (Africa), where political gimmicks and insobrieties are so widespread.

I read with a gleam of suspicion and an irreversible incredulity the Former National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Akwatia, Baba Jamal’s isolated thinker’s assertion that the NDC will walk over the governing New Patriotic Party(NPP) in the 2020 general elections following the perceived rejection of their policies by spare parts dealers, especially those in Abossey Okai and illegal miners (See: Galamseyers will give NDC 1m votes, spare parts dealers 500k votes in 2020 – Baba Jamal; kasapafmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 08/09/2018).

Let us be honest, the NDC apparatchiks are known for the propagation of pernicious propaganda with the view to gaining electoral advantage.

In fact, not long ago, it was former President Mahama who came out and criticised President Akufo-Addo for doing everything possible to halt the menace of illegal mining(See: Stop chasing illegal miners with soldiers – Mahama to government; citinewsroom.com/ghanaweb.com, 28/04/2018).

Ex-President Mahama nagged, grouched and censured somewhat plangently: “…it is true that if we don’t do something about it, it will destroy the environment. But we need to apply wisdom. Because we’ve chased young people involved in illegal small-scale mining with soldiers in the past in this country but it didn’t work.”

If, indeed, Ex-President Mahama and his NDC government deployed the military in their attempt to halt the menace of illegal mining but to no avail, why are they making nonsense of the ban now?

It would however appear that the likes of Baba Jamal are impertinently standing on the shoulders of Former President Mahama to offer support to the galamseyers. How pathetic?

If you may recollect, a few months ago, former President Mahama shockingly pontificated: “But if we put a blanket ban and send soldiers after the young people that is not the way to go. As you stop illegal small-scale mining, at the same time you must put in place a livelihood package so that as you are displacing people from illegal mining, they have something to do…. But when there is nothing to do but you are just chasing them, shooting them, it is not the way to go.”

Well, if we are to draw an adverse inference, Ex-President Mahama and his NDC apologists are suggesting that the security personnel should cease chasing armed robbers and other obdurate criminals with guns and rather offer them alternative livelihoods. How bizarre?

To be quite honest, there is unobjectionable evidence of some galamseyers quitting their jobs and moving to the rural areas to embark on the illegal mining. A criminal shall remain so regardless.

Ex-President Mahama insisted: “We [NDC] decided that we will bring a new mining law that will regulate galamsey that persons who do it well will be able to sustain themselves…So immediately, the [Akufo-Addo] government must look at these regulations and come up with good policies so that those who want to do it, will do it within the law.”

I could not agree more with former President Mahama. Indeed, better data and policies are needed to get the sector back on track. But the all-important question we should be asking former President Mahama and the likes of Baba Jamal is: why did you fail woefully to arrest a canker such as illegal mining in eight years in office?

Baba Jamal, given the extreme dangers associated with illegal mining, it is, indeed, a step in the right direction for President Akufo-Addo to halt the illegal miners, many of whom are said to have been using noxious mercury in their mining activities.

Baba Jamal, in addition to stealing our natural resources, the illegal miners are gleefully polluting our lands and sources of drinking water with noxious mercury and cyanide. Are you not worried?

“Unlike some other West African countries, Ghana allows mercury use in mining. Mercury is freely available in shops and can be bought with a canister, bottle, or as a ball wrapped in a plastic cling film, and much of it has been brought in by Chinese miners (HRW 2014).”

Baba Jamal, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.

In my humble opinion, the 1989 small-scale mining law has to be amended. The amendments must make it unlawful for any Ghanaian to transfer small-scale mining licences to their foreign minions, and must also prohibit allocation of mining lands to the illegal miners.

It is, however, true that potential economic benefits (employment, tax revenues and development outcomes) can be derived from small-scale mining sector in Ghana.

We cannot also deny the fact that small-scale mining is a significant contributor to the economic and social well-being of many people and households in rural, remote, and poor communities in Ghana. However, the way small-scale mining sector is being managed in Ghana, it does not look favourable.

Somehow, the laws which govern the small-scale mining sector are confused and inconsistent. Indeed, all the attention is being focused on the large-scale mining sector, leaving the small-scale mining sector at a substantial disadvantage.

That said, in order to achieve the maximum benefit, society as a whole must show interest in promoting and strengthening the role of small-scale mining in national development.

In addition, the effective implementation of regulations and fortifications towards the developmental potential of the sector must be the topmost importance to the regulating authorities.

It must also be emphasised that societies at large has been both positively and negatively affected by small-scale mining.

The positive effects include the extraction of ores from small deposits or from tailings, and thus providing the rural folks and other small scale miners with sustainable incomes.

On the other hand, the negative effects include, among other things, environmental degradation, water pollution, the release of mercury and other toxic and hazardous wastes into the free environment, and unforeseen social tensions that can lead to civil unrest.

On the preponderance of probability, the negative effects outweigh the positive effects, and therefore it is prudent for any serious, committed and forward-thinking leader to put tabs on the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners until better system is put in place.