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Opinions of Thursday, 13 April 2017

Columnist: TheNational Forum

Stop Galamsey

- BloodGold!



Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin has described 'galamsey' as blood gold. Like 'blood diamonds' exploited at the expense of human life and nature, the Okyehene says "this blood gold" phenomenon persist because the State has failed to assume full responsibility.

The respected chief who is a strong advocate of environmental protection has challenged the State to live up to its responsibility and deal with this crime. Relying on the Law, the Okyehene said it was unambiguous in Section 1 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006; Act 703 which states:

"Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic and is vested in the President in trust for the People of Ghana."

Section 2 of the same Act details the extent to which the authority given the State symbolized in the President and his team of Ministers may be applied;

"Where the land is required to secure the development or utilization of a mineral resource, the President may acquire the land or authorise its occupation and use under an applicable enactment for the time being in force."

These two provisions read in full demonstrate that the State does not require the consent of any chief or individual to give out licenses for the exploitation of mineral wealth wherever they may be found. So why the public expect chiefs who are as powerless as them to deal with this nation wrecking menace as the State with its power looks on is worrying to the Okyehene.

In an exclusive interview with Managing Editor of TNF, the Over Lord of the Akyem Abuakwa traditional area wondered why the State appear to be abdicating or shirking her responsibility thus shifting it on chiefs. "What power has chiefs to regulate or arrest these clear acts of criminality?" Osagyefo quizzed.

It is the State that grants licenses, be it reconnaissance, exploratory or mining permits. The Minerals Commission is the body that does this. Why the Minerals Commission continues to grant licenses despite the large sounds of protestation only they can explain.

Osagyefo recounted how somewhere in October, 2016 in joint effort with the then CDS they managed to ward off all the 'galamseyers' in the Akyem Abuakwa enclave for some four to five days. But everything turned 9-day wonder as some power or authority 'from above' recalled the soldiers paving the way for the return of the criminals.

Illegal mining has occupied the most part of the Ghanaian public discussion in recent times especially as it abundantly clear that it is threatening the survival of nature and our nation state. Arms are procured by these illegal miners and used when they come face to face with attack even if it is from the State's security forces.

Legally permitted mining especially by the multi-national mining companies appear to be the parent of the galamsey. Our people knew mining long before the advent of the westerners who came with the notion of getting gold at all cost. But our forbearing miners mined under environmentally friendly conditions. They dug deep into the ground to get gold without adversely affecting water bodies, polluting the air or poisoning the soil with toxins.

As a colonial legacy, the multi-national mining companies deprive the indigenes of their sources of livelihood rendering them hopeless and dejected. In their despair, they turn to encroaching on concessions which were originally and naturally theirs.

There are instances where some of these multi-nationals engage the local people to illegally mine and sell at cheap prices to them.

Who buys the 'blood gold'? It is the Precious Minerals Marketing Company, PMMC which is a government company. If there were no market for the illegally mined 'blood gold' would the perpetrators continue to destroy land, water and air knowing there is nothing to gain from the toil?