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Opinions of Sunday, 17 March 2013

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini: Stop Akyem Abuakwa Juaso's Illegal Gold Miners

By Kofi Thompson

It is a positive development that today there is increased public concern in Ghana, about the disastrous effect on the natural environment, of the activities of illegal gold miners and loggers across a vast swathe of the Ghanaian countryside.

Against that backdrop, an illegal gold mining entity's boldness in stationing a heavy earth-moving machine in a valley along one of the banks of the higher reaches of the Akoosu stream, in what must be one of the most beautiful forests in the world, illustrates perfectly, the utter contempt the wealthy and well-connected individuals behind much of the illegal gold mining in Akyem Abuakwa have, for the authorities charged with stopping illegal gold mining in Ghana.

If the new Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini wants to make any headway in the fight against illegal gold mining and logging in Ghana, he has the perfect opportunity to make a good start - by making an example of those behind that latest outrage in the Akyem Abuakwa fringe-forest village of Juaso.

Let him ask the military to move to the area immediately to stop the operators of that heavy earth-moving machine from using it.

Its presence there is the thin end of the wedge, in the grand lay-all-to-waste strategy in the quest for gold, of the ruthless individuals driven by unfathomable greed, who brought it there.

Stopping its usage swiftly would prevent those bold illegal gold miners operating it from causing irreparable damage to what is part of an important eco-systems services provider - in an area designated a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA).

At a time when global climate change is impacting our country negatively, we must not wait for the sources of the drinking-water supply of a large part of southern Ghana to dry up, before the threat posed by the illegal gold miners and loggers operating in Akyem Juaso and elsewhere in Akyem Abuakwa is taken seriously. Alas, it will be too late then.

It is inconceivable that officials of the EPA; the Minerals Commission; and the Fanteakwa District Assembly would permit any gold mining company to operate in that ecologically sensitive area - if they had carried out on-site visits there, prior to the issuance of any statutory permits.

Those who brought that heavy earth-moving machine to the edge of one of the banks of the Akoosu stream, must be asked to produce their EPA permits; as well as those of the Minerals Commission; and that of the Fanteakwa District Assembly.

Knowing how those behind most of the illegal mining that goes on in Akyem Abuakwa operate, all the regulatory bodies mentioned above, and the Fanteakwa District Assembly, must be asked to explain to the minister how those illegal gold miners came by the various permits - if they have any - authorising them to mine in that ecologically sensitive area.

One doubts very much that any environmental impact assessment document used in obtaining any permits they produce would have conveyed a true picture of the sensitivity and importance of the area's ecology - and its importance as an eco-systems services provider vital for the drinking-water supply of Accra, Sekondi, Takoradi and many other urban areas in the Eastern; Central; Ashanti; and Western regions.

The time has come for ordinary people in Ghana to lend their full support to public officials in such situations, but to also demand that those officials actually do the important work they are paid so handsomely to do for the nation, by hard-pressed taxpayers.

If over 60 percent of government revenue is now earmarked for salaries, to ensure that public-sector employees are well-motivated, surely, officialdom ought to justify that by ending the impunity of the powerful and wealthy individuals behind most of the illegal gold mining that goes on in Akyem Abuakwa and other areas in Ghana?

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, is an indefatigable workaholic who leads by example.

For the sake of present and future generations, he must insist that those given the important task of stopping illegal gold mining and logging in Ghana, move to Akyem Juaso with dispatch - to stop those using heavy earth-moving machinery on the banks of the Akoosu stream and elsewhere in the area, from destroying what is part of a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area.

Email: peakofi.thompson@gmail.com.