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Opinions of Friday, 14 December 2018

Columnist: Obrempong Yaw Ampofo

On the lift of the ban on small scale mining, here are a few thoughts

The reason Ghanaians supported the ban on illegal mining were two (2). First was the devastating EFFECT of illegal mining on ancestral river bodies, and the second was the silent inner anger of seeing Chinese nationals in particular, “stealing” and polluting our ancestral rivers whilst people with power looked on. For me, that’s what angered many Ghanaians to support the campaign.

Now, from March 24 2017 till December 17, 2018, there is no evidence as we speak that those ancestral rivers have been restored to any percentage, to warrant the lifting of the ban. Ghanaians didn’t support the ban; daring its financial, employment and local economy implications because we were happy seeing small scale miners go out of business. But we supported it with the hope and believe that the government was, between five and 10 years, going to present to us, a “white or green” Pra, Ankobra, Tano and their many tributaries.

If we knew the ban was going to be lifted whilst the rivers remain what they are, then we would have been so dumb a people to support a short term funfair which was not going to take us anywhere.

If we knew the decision to lift the ban was somehow going to be done largely on business considerations and pressure from small scale miners and not the healing of the rivers, I doubt many of us would have jumped onto the campaign.

Quick one, can the government present the gains it made, with respect to changes to rivers, [before and after stats], total area of land reclaimed between March 2017 and December 2018 and the total number of trees that have been planted on reclaimed areas and their locations? As we speak, Pra is brownish and polluted just as post 2011. Akobra River is same. Ankwaa River that passes through Hiawa in the Wassa Amenfi Central District is murkier. Tano, which shares boundary with Ivory Coast at Elubo never, I repeat, never saw any physical change!

We didn’t support the ban to just see small scale miners out of business, but to have our rivers restored to their originality. I can only believe this government if its ministers in charge of lands and natural resources as well as the environment boldly make a pledge of a timeline [hopefully by December 7 2020] that if our ancestral rivers are not 60 or 70 percent physically and scientifically restored, we should vote them out of power. We need to march them just as we did for former Energy Minister Kwabena Donkor on his dumsor pledge.

The Chinese

On the Chinese, can the government present its data on the number of Chinese in particular, in the three Wassa Amenfi Districts [W/R] to ‘supply’ mining inputs to small scale miners? How many of them have valid working permits, and how many have renewed their permits to stay and do business after the ban is lifted? There was a vetting of small scale miner’s license. Did we do same for Chinese who are doing same jobs in mining communities?

Last week there was a news item of some Chinese arrested in Amansie[A/R]. Do we know what that means? It means our government is clueless on the number of Chinese foreigners in the country and where they are. Wasn’t that arrest enough evidence that the illegality is still happening and so the ban should be reviewed, instead of lifting? We joke too much in this country, and we prove with our approach to things that we are indeed Africans.

In china, every foreigner, particularly dark skin person can be tracked and recalled with ease. Can the District Chief Executives, those in the communities itself recall, or provide every detail on Chinese in his jurisdiction? Can the immigration office in that district provide credible data on those Chinese? If they have, how come the Amansie office of the immigration officers didn’t know a group of Chinese people are in the district and need to check their whereabouts and what they do? Couldn’t we have done that during the ban period?

If we are serious with ending the illegalities perpetrated by foreigners, the immigration at Amansie should be hauled before authorities to answer questions on the presence of the Chinese and the status of their work permits.

Kweku Adoboli was deported in such a humiliating manner despite the gains he made to correct his past. Their immigration proved that they are serious unlike ‘some’ of their Ghanaian counterparts.

Watch this space, because the China Syno-hydro deal, which our government needed it so bad that if it doesn’t come, no roads could be constructed under their tenure will present a different set of environmental challenges. Just observe!

Operation vanguard joins list of such past interventions

I have maintained that the use of the military was never the antidote to Illegal mining. It has not worked in the past, neither was there evidence to suggest that it was going to worked, or sees an end to illegal mining this time round. Those past operations arrested, confiscated, and prosecuted some illegal miners just as Operation Vanguard has done.

But there was always going to be a flaw with this approach if they continue to think that the miners in the pit are the people behind the act. The real people enticing these youth into the pits are big men, big people in society. So if the fight is not taken to those big men, who are themselves in government, or connected to big people in government, the fight will never be won. Lest I forget, Aisha Huan’s name popped up as still working in the mines last week.

Like some retired officers in uniform, honest military ones who were with the Operation Vanguard team and wholeheartedly fought the illegality may one day look back and shed a tear to see that the menace had resurfaced.

It happened even before the lift

Before the announcement of the lifting of the ban, many residents in the galamsey infested communities, including people of different origins were lining up early mornings, waiting on the streets and by the roadside to board Taxis for their operations in remote areas in the three Wassa Amenfi Districts. The early food of all kinds, from rice and palm nut soup, fufu with bush meat, the several bags of sachet water that are packed at the back of the taxis, the pickups that loads tons of fuel in their buckets, the return of “sisters” in those areas, the Chinese who compete for space in trotros and taxis, and those in black tainted pickups have been were all happening before this announcement.

That should speak of whether we were holding firm, the problem.
As the announcement has been officially made for the lifting of the ban, worried Ghanaians are effectively tamed to complain when they see Chinese and other nationals digging down any area.

May God save my country!