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Opinions of Thursday, 6 October 2016

Columnist: Denis Andaban

Illegal mining could be a blessing (1)

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By Denis Andaban

The issue of illegal mining in Ghana has been under public discourse since the last decade and still deserves a better discussion; a discussion that can lead to a pragmatic solution and not the usual talk and forget tendencies.

Ghana, since the days of precolonial era is known for its abundance of gold and that has given Ghana a significant place in the world market - since gold and cocoa remain the major export commodities for the country.

I am not too sure whether Ghana still progresses in the production of gold but what am very sure of is that - we risk our environment with the seemingly escalating unscientific mining proliferating on daily basis across the country. In fact there are countless known illegal mining sites dotted across every corner of our country where most unemployed youth battle for prosperity.

I write this article to raise some critical issues about this so called "galamsey".

It is quite indisputable that mining in whatever form provides employment for the unemployed youth who engage in it to survive. That in essence - is not bad at all - considering the increasing rate of unemployment in Africa - and for that matter in Ghana.

Many youths have made their lives better by venturing into this apparently lucrative business.

Is that not being enough a reason to see how we can as a nation, device strategies of using small scale mining to ameliorate the escalating rate of unemployment among the youth?

I find it unfathomable at the approach at which we handle issues of illegal mining in this country. I personally do not see the possibility of curbing the situation at hand but we can transform it scientifically to better the progress of the country.

It is far better than sitting aloof and paying lips services whilst our virgin vegetation, arable land and rivers are destroyed with impunity; I’m not talking about the number of youth who lose their lives in the struggle to make exploits in this unchecked business.

A lot of damage has been caused and the bitter ramifications await us all and no one can stand in exoneration when the natural hit backs begin to teach us a bitter lesson. We appear to be making illegal mining a curse when indeed we are capable of making it a blessing.

It is a verifiable fact that many traditional rulers who should be pushing for a change in the manner in which the land is being destroyed are rather behind pushing the poor youth to engage in it whilst they get substantial returns. Chiefs and other influential people cannot pretend over this destruction of our land and water bodies.

Politicians on the other hand, have compromised what should be done right for political gains. I do remember, when government waged a war against illegal mining in 2007 but immediately abandoned the moves because of election 2008 since "gallamsey" operators could pay the government back in its own coin by voting them out.

Then again, in 2010/2011, similar measures were taken to curb the activities of illegal mining but that also became a night dinner. My question is, for how long can we continue to gamble with our own future?

Are we being wicked to ourselves or we are simply ignorant of the adversities of this act in the long run?

What I expect is to see the youth who are into illegal mining being organized in groups, get trained on certain basic environmental protection strategies. When this is done, we can register and licence them, give them designated areas to operate with strict supervision. This will minimise the dreadful impact their activities have on the environment.

This will also put them in a better position to contribute something in the forms of tax to government and contribute significantly in protecting the environment.

Is this difficult to do? Certainly not, just that, we are being pretentious over the years about this illegal mining as if we don't know the dire consequences of it.

The minerals commission can work with other agencies to regulate this act and scientifically transform it from being a curse to a blessing. It could be the best form of employment and that can tremendously increase the GDP of the country.

We don't need to wage any war against illegal miners. That to me, is archaic and can not yield the needed results. Government and traditional rulers can lead the move by involving all the illegal miners and private mining companies to subsequently effect a long lasting innovative, scientific and legalized mining.

I believe people will bring all sort of legalities, ungrounded reasons with well garnished grammar to refute some of these proposals in this write up but let the truth be told that we are being hypothetical and are the architects of our own development challenges.

Our actions are simply creating a yardstick for some few unscrupulous people to make selfish gains out of our abundant resources in the expense of the vast majority of the citizenry; risking every economic activity in this country. Agriculture, which continues to be the backbone of our economy, is being threatened.

I associate myself with those who postulate that industrial revolution in the way to go to create a dominant export led economy but let me succinctly state that we cannot embark on any effective industrial policy if we don't ensure a sustainable primary production prospects.

We can only feed any industries with adequate raw material if we make a conscious effort to go into more primary production. The two must go simultaneously. Industrialization is a direct product of primary production and that is incontestably established.

It is unfortunate, none of the political parties with their lofty sugar coating promises, have made any comprehensive argument about this illegal mining. Perhaps, that is a justification that politicians could be pretentious.

I personally do not take solace in blaming politicians for some of these hypocritical attitudes. After all, politicians are direct products of our own society. We just must agree that we need change of attitude among us to demonstrate true loyalty, patriotism and nationalism in this country than the usual daily spinning political propaganda and needless accusations and blames. It is not too late. All we need is read in between the lines by creating a prosperous economic with what we have.

Writer's e-mail: denisandaban@gmail.com