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Opinions of Sunday, 29 April 2018

Columnist: K. Badu

Did Ex-President Mahama really criticise Akufo-Addo for prudently curbing illegal mining?

I cannot get my head around how and why former President Mahama could oppose the NPP government’s estimable efforts to curb the activities of the conscienceless illegal miners (See: Stop chasing illegal miners with soldiers – Mahama to government; citinewsroom.com/ghanaweb.com, 28/04/2018).

Ex-President Mahama grouched 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.”

With all due respect, what does Ex-President Mahama take discerning Ghanaians for? After all, wasn’t he in government for eight years, and what did he do to circumscribe the apparent menace?

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 didn’t they employ alternative solutions?

So Ex-President Mahama wants to tell the good people of Ghana that eight years in government was not enough to halt a canker such as illegal mining?

Why must he then criticise someone who has been in government for only sixteen months but doing everything humanly possible to protect our environment?

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 is suggesting that the security personnel should cease chasing armed robbers with guns and rather offer them alternative livelihoods. How bizarre?

In fact, 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 asseverated: “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 his NDC government is: why did you fail woefully to arrest a quagmire such as illegal mining in eight years in office?

In a great scheme of things, 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 absolutely 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. The sector is being managed abysmally.

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

Having said that, in order to achieve the maximum benefit, it is extremely important that society as a whole have 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 promotion of efficient resource use, such as extracting 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, commitment and forward-thinking leader to put tabs on the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners.