You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2017 09 20Article 582887

Opinions of Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Columnist: Shirley Asiedu Addo

Royalty stands up to help war against ‘Galamsey’

A forest destroyed by illegal miners A forest destroyed by illegal miners

We travelled mostly on poor and deplorable roads through towns and villages.

We were tortured on the journey by disturbing images of a country under siege by the selfish and egoistic deeds of illegal miners.

Our water bodies muddied for gold

The illegal mining menace is a disturbing one as you travel around the country.

The lands have been ransacked by the miners, its gold taken and left as dangerous muddy trenches.

Custodians of the lands

Chiefs are the custodians of our land. The chieftaincy institution is recognised by Article 270 of the 1992 Constitution. Article 270 (1) states that the institution of chieftaincy together with its traditional councils as established by law and use is hereby guaranteed.

They are the managers of our land. They own the land in a lot of the communities in Ghana and are respected and honoured.

Government acknowledges the role of chiefs in governance at the community levels, regional and national levels.

In solving the threat, the infamous “galamsey” menace pose to our country and considering the fact that in all regions of Ghana and in almost all districts there are galamsey activities, government could not but seek the collaboration of chiefs in the fight.

The Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs set out to the traditional areas in the country to appeal to them to help fight the illegal mining menace that has plagued the country.

The Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs Ministry said it was disturbed that chiefs had been severally mentioned to be involved in the business.

The minister and his deputy, therefore, embarked on a mission to get the chiefs to get on board.

The Deputy Minister at the ministry, Mr Paul Essien, during a four- day tour of selected traditional areas in the Central Region was very honest with the traditional rulers.

The Caution

He cautioned that the ministry would not shield any chief found to have been engaged in illegal mining.

Mr Essien said government was not ready to spare anyone, including chiefs.

He stated that while government recognised the honoured place of the chieftaincy institution in the country, it would not shield anyone involved in illegal mining considering the devastating effects of the activities of illegal miners on the environment.

The Honour

To get the traditional authorities motivated to support the effort, Mr Essien said the ministry was working on getting chiefs and traditional areas who are able to keep their areas galamsey free honoured.

Monetary efforts

Government, he said, was also working on giving allowances to gazetted chiefs in the country to help them deal with the enticement from illegal miners to give of their lands.

Your land, our resources

Indeed it is reported in a research study that 80 per cent of all lands in Ghana are owned by chiefs or clans who are allodial owners.

The minister reiterated that while the lands were owned by the chiefs, the minerals in the land were owned by the government.

Article 257 (6) of the 1992 Constitution states explicitly that “Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone….is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for the people of Ghana.

Thus, the Constitution places the mineral rights of the nation in the presidency. The chiefs on the land do not own the minerals and, therefore, cannot give the lands out to be mined.

It is on this authority that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo asked during his recent tour of the Central Region, stated continuously that he would not allow the minerals to be abusively exploited to the detriment of those who now live and for posterity.

He re-emphasised that his government would protect the resources without fear or favour.

Galamsey still on

It was obvious during interactions with the various traditional councils with officials of the ministry that the galamsey activities were still going on.

We still have some illegal miners working on River Pra and mudding the waters.

The Paramount Chief of Atti Mokwa Traditional Area, Oseadeayo Kwesi Kenin, appealed to the minister to facilitate the extension of the operation Vanguard to the region.

Some of the chiefs said the illegal miners mocked them because they knew the traditional authorities did not have what it took to fight them.

The Central Regional Operations Manager of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Mr John Kwofie, in an interview indicated that the most critical challenge for the GWCL in the region was illegal mining and its grave impact on the operations of the company, especially at the Sekyere Hemang Water Treatment Plant.

Some of the chiefs said some of the miners came to them with authorisation letters from Accra.

Small-scale mining halted

Mr Essien said government had ordered that all small-scale mining activities be halted until the sector was sanitised.

He added that government was no longer giving licence to small-scale miners and cautioned the chiefs not to entertain any supposedly licensed small-scale miners.

The foreign invasion

Small-scale mining has been with Ghanaians since time immemorial but its debilitating grip on the nation was most felt in recent times with the “foreign invasion.”

Foreigners from China, Nigeria and other nations have taken over the small-scale mining industry and abusing our lands and water bodies with impunity.

The effect

The illegal mining has in no small way had devastating consequences on the nation.

Its water bodies have been polluted, some birds and animals are being made extinct possibly because of the activities of these illegal miners on their habitat.

Operation Vanguard

The government’s response in the form of Operation Vanguard is extremely commendable.

But the sustainability of Operation Vanguard has been severally questioned. For now it is a commendable move that gives the nation a sigh of relief.

Mining crucial

Mining has for several years been an important contributor to the financial well-being of our beloved motherland.

But the over exploitative nature of the industry, particularly with the illegal unregulated small-scale miners, must be a source of worry for all.

They are a quick way of making money, especially the small-scale ones. Mining accounts for on average of 2.1 per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment to about 1.1 per cent of the Ghanaian labour force.

Ghana’s mining industry contributed in no small measure to the impressive 14.4 per cent GDP growth the economy chalked up in the 2011. According to the Gold Fields Mineral Survey, Ghana was the 9th leading producer of gold in the World and the 2nd in Africa despite the two per cent decrease in production from 92 tonnes in 2010 to 91 tonnes in 2011.

According to reports from the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the minerals and mining sector contributed GH¢1.24 billion to the state in 2014.

There is no doubt mining has its role in accelerating national development.

But at what expense? We cannot look on.

The unwavering commitment of royalty in the fight against galamsey is welcome news.

The custodians of the resources, our traditional authorities, will certainly give account to our ancestors and will be judged by posterity. They pledge to help win the fight. So help them God.