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01.12.2020 Feature Article

A "Mining Consultant"? Who the Hell Is That?

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"Government has lost the fight against galamsey - Mining consultant"A mining consultant has said that the Government is only pretending to fight illicit small scale mining (galamsey) in the country. According to [this mining consultant] the measures against this particular trade has (sic) been heavily politicised by the Government, a situation that defeats the move."

I scratch my head as I ask: what is a "mining consultant"?

What qualifies someone to be a "mining consultant?"

Better still, since qualifications can be bought or be self-awarded, who was it that designated him a "mining consultant"?

Was he paid to make this statement?

If so, by whom?

In the days when I was a Reporter in the News Division of the Gold Coast Broadcasting Service (early 1957) if you brought such a story for inclusion in a news bulletin, one of the editors on duty - such as my fondly-remembered "DA" (Dan Kwadwo Awere); "OA" (Osei Acheampong); "DS" (Danquah-Smith"); "BLS" (Ben Sackey) - or if a Reporter was particularly unlucky, "KSS" (Kwatei Shang Simpson) - they would take one through an instant viva:

"What is a mining consultant?...

"Who does he work for?

"Why should his views be broadcast to the whole country?

"Even if his views are of interest, what's the news value? Is there any relevant discussion of mines currently going on in the Legislative Assembly? Is any legislation on mining contemplated?"

If one's answers did not convince one of these editors on duty, not only would the story be spiked, but if one was unfortunate, one might not be entrusted with duties relating to news for a week or two!

These tough interrogations ensured that no-one could be influenced by anything other than the true news value of any item, before presenting it for inclusion in say, the 9 o'clock news.

Yes, there were active political parties anxious to pass their propaganda through the GBS.

Yes, there were profit-seeking businesses.

But everyone's route to publicity was the advertisement. The GBS, having been set up for the Gold Coast Government by the BBC, reflected the BBC view that advertisements were, at best, a sort of pestilence that was intended to misrepresent untruth - or the half-truth - as accurate information to the public. Usually, for commercial gain.

Indeed, to us, the only worse thing, apart from misjudgement, was taking money in order to include an item in a news bulletin. If one was even suspected of doing that, not only would one be fired but one might be prosecuted for accepting a bribe!

The questions I've asked on the item in the opening paragraphs of this article show you what the public are up against in these Internet-dominated days. Who was it, who, calling himself a journalist, allowed this to pass as news:

QUOTE "Speaking in an interview,... [the mining consultant] emphasized that the government has lost the fight against galamsey, given the way and manner it was done... He added: "Small-scale mining sector is a sector that can throw in more money if we plan our policy and programmes very well. In this sector, people use wash plant (sic). There can be a whole industry producing the wash plant, which will give quality jobs." UNQUOTE

The Government has "lost the fight against galamsey"?

Okay, suppose that's true, what can make it win the fight against galamsey? Is that not the logical question that should follow the statement that the fight "has been lost"?

Ah, maybe the answer lies in the use of the "wash plant"? Which galamseyers have never heard of, of course?

Ha, according to our mining consultant, "small-scale mining sector is a sector that can throw in more money if we plan our policy and programmes very well".

What? Is it not "small-scale mining" - with a greedy eye on easy money - that "advanced" into high-tech (including the use of the "wash plant") and created the devastation of rivers and food farms that constitutes the "galamsey problem"?

Didn't a former Government, with the altruistic motive of allowing local communities to benefit from their underground resources, innocently open the door to small-scale mining? If the Government of that time had foreseen that our rivers would turn into mud, would it have have entertained the idea that "small-scale mining" could be considered a rational alternative to unemployment, distressing as unemployment was? What is the use of being employed and yet being unable to obtain good water for one' family to drink? Can we realistically envisage importing water – presumably from Libya, where Col. Gaddhafi was tapping water from beneath the sands of the desert?

Is our "mining consultant" aware that a four-day "multi-stakeholder 'action dialogue' on artisanal and small-scale mining" was actually held at Tarkwa, in the Western Region, in January 2016, to thrash out these issues and that allowing artisanal mining to be carried out in Ghana has thus been thoroughly examined in all its forms? Did the small-scale miners follow the knowledgeable advice given at that "dialogue" with stakeholders?

Indeed, in spite of that "dialogue", did small-scale miners desist from continuing to pollute Ghana's water-bodies? Or are Rivers like Ankobra, Prah, Tano, Offin, Densu, Birem and Oti, etc. still experiencing a continuing onslaught that increasingly reduces their ability to provide potable water to the communities that were settled on their banks – in ancient, “unscientific times – precisely because our ancestors perceived these water-bodies as capable of eternally sustaining life in their catchment areas?

Was it not out of exasperation with the unwillingness of the small-scale miners to recognise the harm they were doing - not only to present generations but to unborn generations of Ghanaians - that the NPP Government decided to ban small-scale mining in January 2017? Was the ban not lifted on 17 December 2018? Were – again – any lessons learnt by the small-scale miners as a result of that painful ban?

What our "mining consultant" should be aware if is that as of December 2018, 1,350 miners had actually been “vetted” resulting in some 900 licences being granted to "small-scale mining companies", through the combined efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Minerals Commission and the Water Resource Commission. But did galamsey stop?

Does our “mining consultant” not know that under Ghana's new regulations, "all mining companies are obliged to have at least one employee trained in sustainable mining at the University of Mines and Technology?" But has that stopped the harmful practices carried out by galamseyers?

Yes, it is quite true that the IMPLEMENTATION of some of the Government's proposals has encountered very difficult problems. But is there any programme anywhere whose implementation is guaranteed not to run into difficulties? Is that a sensible expectation, in the affairs of humans?

Take Operation Vanguard, for instance. Its members were supposed to enforce the new regulations in good faith. But it has inevitably been weakened by the inherent willingness of Ghanaian society, generally, to use and accept bribes to obtain short-sighted and, eventually, self-defeating advantages.

Yes, the perennial question of "Who guards the guards" has raised its head often, as reports abound of Operation Vanguard personnel working in cahoots with galamsey operators. In particular, the seizure of mining equipment, especially excavators, by Operation Vanguard personnel, has led to a justifiably sceptical attitude being adopted by members of the public, with regard to the effectiveness of the entire setup of Operation Vanguard. Sad, but that's the reality we have created for ourselves.

But, as stated above, human failures of this nature can beset the implementation of any governmental policy. It is therefore up to Ghanaian society as a whole to realise the full cost of such frailties and work in tandem with their Government to try to resolve them.

The difficulty is, of course, compounded by the fact that members of the Government themselves live with, and are part of, Ghanaian society and are exposed to all its well-known foibles. Can we rise above ourselves and use our laws to punish galamseyers, WHOEVER they happen to be?

That is the crucial question. So far, we have failed the test. To pretend that there is an easy answer and that failing to follow that course is the reason why we are "losing the fight", is arrant nonsense, I am afraid.

We cannot ignore these home-truths and simplistically adopt a mantra that proclaims from the rooftops that "the fight is lost". Neither can we pretend that the very reason why the struggle against galamsey was launched in the first place, is also, by some magic, the only way to defeat galamsey. That is the height of illogicality.

Galamseyers dodrink water, use water to cook and wash with, and yet wilfully close their eyes to the destruction of water-bodies with chan-fangs, excavators and cancer-causing chemicals, such as mercury. Who can expect rational human beings to carry on courting such disasters?

Only a psychiatrist can say. In truth, unless there is reawakening of mass consciousness to the reality of these dangers, there will be no hope of safeguarding our heritage of water-bodies and fertile lands for the future.

When I contemplate the immensity of the task, I just feel like crying.

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2020

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.Column: CameronDuodu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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