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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Columnist: Haleed Sulemana

How should Ghana manage the Galamsey crisis?

Galamsey operators at a concession Galamsey operators at a concession

Ghana’s commonwealth is under siege from the activities of illegal miners and a government that appears not to be bothered. Although this is an obviously serious problem, the government is failing to manage it.

What makes such illegal actions a bigger threat to the country’s security could be seen in the gradual destruction of precious farmlands and forests, and in the rate at which environmental pollution is contributing to health insecurity in Ghana. It is a problem that if left unchecked, could inadvertently destroy the ecological fabrics of the country; it could pose an existential threat to the republic. So, Ghana has every reason to be worried.

In July 2017, President Nana Akuffo-Addo publicly declared war on illegal small-scale mining, often called ‘galamsey.’ He vowed to end galamsey and help achieve a clean and green Ghana. But the country has seen no concrete efforts towards this course. What is more worrying is that some government officials under the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining were caught on tape taking bribes and outfoxing procedures kept in place to combat galamsey. It is enough that the Ghanaian government is doing virtually nothing to stop the exploitation of the country’s wealth. But allowing state officials to further exploit the system without prosecution is unacceptable.

Curbing illegal mining requires a balanced strategy that directly confronts the problem at the roots.

There should be collaborative efforts by the national and local governments, and private corporations to arrive at a workable solution to address the galamsey problem. Leaders in the affected rural communities must be a part of this solution process. The right mechanisms should be employed to monitor and regulate activities of small-scale miners, which could include the creation of a small monitoring task force across these communities.

Local communities prone to illegal mining should be given full authority over their ancestral lands. At worst, they should have the right to be a part of the exploitation agreement process that is usually between the national government and potential investors. This will ensure that local administrators share the burden of responsibility in protecting their land and its resources. It is a good way to guarantee that mining is done under the right supervision by licensed persons only.

Also, local communities should be educated on the dangers of irresponsible mining on the health and safety of their people and the environment; Education is a good way to deter potential illegal miners within the communities. Providing employment opportunities, empowering and training of local inhabitants has a lasting impact on preserving the mines. It is an effective tool in countering illegal small-scale mining activities.

Indeed, local governments and regional governments should be held accountable for ensuring the exploitation of minerals and other resources in their communities are legal. Individuals that fall under the galamsey category should be encouraged to form cooperatives in local communities and be trained in environmentally safe and responsible ways of mining.