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Opinions of Sunday, 2 April 2017

Columnist: dailyguideafrica.com

Declare state of emergency on mining

By: dailyguideafrica.com

Any first year Senior High School economics student knows the ‘Factors of Production’, and the most important of these factors of production is Land. Economists define land as ‘all the productive resources given by nature and existing in their natural and raw state’. Land, according to economists, includes not only the forests, farmlands, fields and plains but also wind, sunshine, rivers, waterfalls, mineral wealth beneath or on the surface of the land. Economists say that land ‘which is a gift of nature, is limited in quantity’. It is the recognition of the limited nature of land, in this case, land in its outright definition, that civilized societies have managed their lands in a manner that the generations unborn will still have something to live on. Sustainable development.

Sadly, many of us in the third world, who ironically, are increasing our population are those who mismanage the gift of nature which has a fixed location and a limited size. As we reproduce without limit, the limited land becomes overcrowded and cannot serve our daily needs. The survival instincts in us goad us to exploit anything and everything on earth to make a living. It is this selfishness in man that has necessitated states to live together according to stated rules and regulations for their collective good. And if the rules and regulations put down by society to regulate individual and group conduct are not enforced, then that society is just procuring its death on installment basis.

This is where Ghana, our beloved country is today. But at long last, we have all come to accept, too late though, that we have not managed our lands well enough particularly the type of gold mining being done in this country which has posed a serious danger to our future and those of generations unborn. This column has spearheaded a crusade against the unbridled, unregulated and open-ended exploitation of the resources of this country as if there is no tomorrow. But as usual, shortsighted that we are, we closed our eyes and minds to these destructive activities of both locals and foreigners. The only time the nation woke up to talk about the criminal activities of our compatriots and foreigners alike is when the perpetrators of these criminal activities had driven themselves to death as in being covered by self-induced landslides. Sad as such deaths are, they could have been avoided if the state had prevented the causes of them in the first instance.

Ghana is not the only country on earth which has been endowed with such massive natural resources, but Ghana may be the only country on earth whose citizens, for want of better expression, are so dumb that we are jolted into action after the event. We do nothing to prevent an action by individuals or group of individuals irrespective of its long term negative outcomes on the nation until we have all been entangled by the negative effects of those actions.

Timber used to be the third export commodity and foreign exchange earner for this country. The 1970s saw the establishment of hundreds of Timber Firms across the country, there were a lot of job opportunities for the youth, the educated, the technically trained and the uneducated and the unskilled had jobs in this sector. The financial contributions of this sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) were always mentioned in the nation’s budget. As a people, we were just comfortable with job opportunities which gave the political leaders sound sleep and added to our finances such that we ignored the danger of deforestation and the dangers that it poses for the future of this country.

The policy of re-planting each timber felled was ignored, forgetting that it takes no less than 50 years for some specific timber species to develop to maturity. Today, the timber is gone, the jobs are not there any longer, the funds have ceased to contribute to our GDP, in its wake, is environmental degraded nation. We saw it coming, we closed our minds and eyes, relished in the immediate benefits until we became engulfed by the doom of our actions and inactions.

Then we turned our attention to the gold. On a grand scale, we moved away from deep shaft mining which was reasonably environmentally friendly, did not have serious negative impact on agriculture, the environment generally and protected our water bodies. The nation allowed surface mining which gave room for the destruction of the surface of the earth irrespective of the economic activities being undertaken on the land. Cocoa farms, oil palm farms, and food crops were all destroyed with official blessings so gold can be extracted. Laws were passed to even offer tax holdings to companies who come to exploit gold by destroying other economic activities on the land, provided some small compensations could be paid to the previous operators of whatever economic activities on those lands.

People were either relocated or resettled with monetary compensations, but lost their livelihoods on the land their ancestors occupied generations before them. And before long, the people whose traditional livelihoods had been curtailed by the multinational companies decided to engage in the very activities that took them away from their lands as well. Once again, we sat down unconcerned; politicians were blackmailed by these wrong doers for fear of losing electoral votes. No political party, was very critical about the open and broad daylight destruction of farm lands, rivers and streams.

Some decent Chiefs complained, some public officers whose jobs were hindered by these criminals and their foreign accomplices also complained, but politicians who have the power to enforce the laws looked the other way. In fact, some of them were either actively involved, financed the operators or indirect beneficiaries of what has now become an albatross hanging on our necks.

What is happening to this country is a siege on the sovereignty, security and safety of this nation. Destruction of rivers and agriculture lands in peace time is worse than an invasion of this country by foreign forces. I am not sure that this country cannot deploy its armed forces to fight any invasion to protect our nation. In war situations, local accomplices of the enemies are dealt with as enemies. If we indeed are serious to deal with this epidemic afflicting this nation, I do not see why we cannot deal with it decisively.

For a start, all Small Scale mining operations in this country should cease immediately. A Task Force made up of officials from EPA, Minerals Commission, Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources, Security Agencies be put in place to meet all holders of licenses to operate Small Scale Mining, the extent of damage done to land and how they will reclaim the lands as per the law. The Minerals Commission should suspend the issuance of Mining Licenses for the next five years minimum, to ensure that those operators have reclaimed lands that have been destroyed.

A Task Force made up of security agencies under the name ‘SEARCH AND DESTROY’ should be set up in all the regions of the country to search for ‘Galamsey’ operators and deal with them ruthlessly. It should not matter who are involved, Chiefs, Ghanaians, Chinese, Indians, Politicians, Pastors or security operatives themselves. I do not believe that if external forces invade this country, we will classify them according to their social standing before we deal with them.

Ghana our beloved country is under siege from within; our future is being destroyed in broad daylight. We see them, we are not happy, we murmur and moan, we whine and pine and yet as a nation, we seem spineless in dealing with it because a few people want to live like Kings and it does not matter if the majority of us have to die. No nation does this to its citizens. We have a responsibility to properly manage the resources bequeathed to us by our forefathers for the sake of the living today and those yet to be born.

There is no substitute for water, unless we import it. Is that where we want to get to? We must be serious as a nation. I am very angry with our stupidity. Three tots for me, Daavi.

Kb2014gh@gmail.com