You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2016 12 24Article 496806

Opinions of Saturday, 24 December 2016

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Chinse’s African gold rush

I have written quite a number of articles about the way galamsey is destroying Ghana’s major water bodies, as well as our farmlands.

The farms being destroyed do not only consist of food– farms upon which our people depend for subsistence, but also, the all-important cocoa farms that provide us with about 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and a huge chunk of our national revenue – in the form of cocoa export duty.

This devastation of our water bodies and farms by galamsey operators is not a secret to anyone. Actual fighting – including the use of firearms – has occurred between the galamsey operators and law enforcement agencies, including the now-moribund National Task Force. In some villages, such as Asamama in the Eastern Region, minor ‘civil wars’ are being fought between villagers anxious to preserve their natural resources and the selfish galamsey operators who are only interested in obtaining alluvial gold and don’t care a hoot about what they destroy in order to get at the gold.

Thanks to modern media, anyone who wants to know what is taking place can have access to a number of films that vividly capture every aspect of galamsey. I shall only list three here, but a Google search will lead anyone who cares to know about galamsey to several other websites. The best of the films, made by such courageous and patriotic film-makers as Edem Srem, are to be found at:

https://vimeo.com/90373386;

Anas Aremeyaw Anas:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye3Bs7D_i98

and even the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICDkj8WrRXE.

The three films listed above were all made by Ghanaians, and their objectivity may, thus, be questioned by anyone who wishes to deny reality for reasons best known to himself or herself. However, a new film has now appeared on the internet that makes it impossible for any sane person to entertain any doubt whatsoever that galamsey is a genocidal enterprise that will deny water and farmlands to generations of Ghanaians as yet unborn.

The film is called ‘CHINA’S AFRICAN GOLD RUSH’ and was made by that inimitable TV station called Al-Jazeera.

I can recall the years during which the galamsey genocidal enterprise would have been blown sky-high by the BBC in such programmes as Panorama or even Newsnight. Or maybe ITV would have shamed the BBC with a searching episode of World In Action. And good old Channel4 would have devoted two or three programmes to the subject looking at the Chinese angle, the Ghanaian angle and the environmental angle – each of which could provide material for a 50-minute programme.

Not to be outdone, CBS would have put its unrelenting 60 Minutes investigators on the trail of the galamsey operators and kept asking them: “But do you know that you are destroying the water that the people of Ghana will need in order to continue to live on the land on which they were born? Do you know of any people who can live without water?”

The Al-Jazeera programme may fall short of what 60 Minutes could have done with the topic, but it is a very good programme, nevertheless. It’s to be found at:

https://environmentaljusticetv.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/101-east-chinas-african-gold-rush/

The most important aspect of this Al-Jazeera programme is that it was fronted by a Chinese speaker, Steve Chow, with the result that it was able, uniquely, to obtain the Chinese side of the issue. Mr Chow drove with the Chinese miners for seven hours to their ‘gold mine’, chatting to them all the while. There, he saw how the ‘mine’ operated and was also able to interview some of the Ghanaians who work with the Chinese.

He found appalling, ‘backbreaking’ work being done by both the Chinese and their Ghanaian employees, to win gold from the river bodies and farms that constitute the area of operation of the mine. Needless to say, both the Ghanaians and their Chinese colleagues are only interested in the gold they are able to win. On the day Mr Chow visited the miners, they got 600 grams of gold – worth about 6,000 US dollars, ‘for half-a day’s work’.

A cocoa farmer told Mr Chow: “I am nearly 80 years old. I’ve, therefore, been cultivating my cocoa for about 40 years. But the farm has been destroyed. When I am gone what will my children do to make a living?”

Mr Chow was taken to a place where there used to be a river ‘which is now only a memory’ but to which libation is poured! The water in the village now is ‘undrinkable’; the farms ‘devastated’. Mr Chow was moved to wonder what price Ghana was going to pay for this gold rush, in the near future?

The evidence produced by Al-Jazeera should, in my opinion, be taken to the Chinese Government by our new Government, and shown directly to Chinese Government leaders, with a request for assistance to resuscitate the killed rivers and try as much as possible to reclaim some of the farms.

As an initial step, the Chinese Government should be politely asked – in the name of solidarity – to send a team of surveyors and environmental scientists to Ghana to assess the damage done and develop a technically-feasible scheme for making as much reparation to the land and water-bodies as possible.

The Chinese Government, be it understood, is not under any obligation to accede to any such request from Ghana. r It always was, is and, will be, Ghana’s own responsibility to close its doors to those who would wreck its farmlands and devastate its water-bodies. But it is in the interest of the two sister-countries that this issue be tackled as early as possible. The Chinese Government is too experienced to in the international arena to allow the weakness of our past corrupt Government to close its eyes to the massive problem that the galamsey operations have caused.

In this connection, I would like to quote the words of Mr Stephen Chow: ‘Only strong Government action’ can stop the devastation of the land that is taking place. “But will that change come in time for Ghana?” he asks.

WILL THE CHANGE COME IN TIME?

It depends, of course, on the urgency with which our new government approaches the matter. I am sure whoever the new Cabinet members are, they will be too intelligent to follow the footsteps of the people they are replacing, whose leader famously stated that the people killing the rivers and the farms were “only trying to earn a living.”

I wish to God that the members of the new Cabinet will allow their intelligence to show itself in deeds, not in their paper qualifications.

We wait to see.