Deracinate Galamsey – Now Or Never

Feature Article Deracinate Galamsey – Now Or Never

We are getting tired and bored writing about galamsey. Reader must also be getting weary and fatigned reading. Perhaps after this article, we will not write on galamsey again, if the situation continues… perhaps to write again when things have changed and we notice a great transformation for the better – Author

We recall what Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Asantehene said at the inauguration of the Regional Consultative Dialogue on small – scale mining on Wednesday, 11 May, 2021, Otumfuo asked for a minute to speak his mind before reading the speech apparently written for him: he noted (paraphrased from Asante – Twi): “Yesterday, the Ashanti Regional Minister, and my son Abu Jinapor asked me to stick to the written speech handed over to me.

I agreed, because they were thinking I would say something controversial. In truth l told them about 30% of us in this room know those who are doing galamsey… If we don't speak the truth, we will lie to ourselves and continue organizing conferences such as this. One person who is into galamsey said plainly that the lands were given to them by the chiefs.

If you are a chief and you have done this, judge yourself knowing that what you have done is wrong… and if you have done this, what kind of chief are you… it is a sin…”

Lest any ignoramus finds fault with this “aside” by Otumfuo, we dare ask: “Why did the two “big” men suggest to him not to “stir the hornet's nest”?

Otumfuo keeps repeating his abhorrence of the menace of galamsey, and the conference at KNUST Great Hall was to provide opportunities to make inputs in the national discourse on the regularization of the small – scale mining sector, to help develop appropriate policy options with the overarching good of improving the operation, regulation, management and governance of the sector.

Pat Thomas it was who sang the song: “Sika nnyeaboa … sika ye mogya. Money is not an animal; money is blood (life). We have all been swayed into believing that money is everything so we glorify the wealthy, accord them respects they do not deserve… we shun those with great sagacity because they are penurious.

A galamseyer, calling himself Royal Monkey Father has done a video in which he and his crew threaten to turn the whole country into a desert.

Deep in a forest and using simple tools like pick – axes and shovels the crew threaten to uproot all the cocoa trees and plantain crops, thereby destroying the forest altogether. They dared the government to come after them, and until the “Kuku – Kuku” stops “KekaKeka” will not stop.

They are peeved at the alleged involvement of government and political party officials in illegal gold mining on a rather large scale, using expensive excavators and other sophisticated equipment. Their earnings in a day in money terms match what a teacher earns in 20 years!

And government will not provide them with jobs… the land was bequeathed to them by their forebears… it does not belong to the government. Sad! Melancholic! Despondent! Gloomy! Lugubrious! You will weep for Ghana! We ignore the sociological perspective (human behaviour is shaped by the groups, and by the social interactions within those groups).

People will flaunt their wealth on T.V. and boast about it, and obtain recognition at high places: Jubilee House, Chiefs' palaces… hold high political offices… and the deification of Akonta Mining would come rather too early.

Then, government will establish an Inter – Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), and top politicians will not look at the fine details of the Chairman's Report, but rather slap a fine medical surgeon, Frimpong – Boateng, with court action (We are not by this suggesting everything in the report is sacrosanct).

What is the difference between “galamsey” and “small – scale mining” Is it not just that one has not got a “license” but the other has. They both do the same thing: they both enter into the forest including “Forest reserves” and uproot cocoa, coffee and plantain crops, and dig up the gold…wash it in the rivers: Pra, Ankobra, Offin, Birim, Densu. The effluents contain toxic chemicals like cyanide used in the processing of the mineral ores. The high acid levels may seep into the underground water or flow into the environment (surface water bodies) thereby posing danger to neighbouring communities – which depend on the rivers for drinking water and water for domestic use.

So, is the mineral endowment of Ghana a blessing or a curse? Are we to import drinking water? The Ghana Water Company – recently announced the shut – down of the treatment plants at Kyebi because of the pollution of the River Birim – So, the company resorts to boreholes!

An official at the Water Company says: “Immediately waste is dumped, the pollution is intense so we have had to use a lot of chemicals in our Weija treatment plant to treat water for Greater Accra” Is it not chilling to hear about new born babies at Sewum Health Centre born without noses, eyes, ears and mouths?

The Western North Regional Minister may debunk the allegation that the situation arises from use of the highly polluted river as a source of drinking water owing to illegal mining. Sophistry?

But Dr. Frank Serebour, the Vice – President of the Ghana Medical Association confirms the veracity of the report by the midwife of Sewum Health Centre: “We should start questioning what is going on… some of the chemicals which are used in this mining are very dangerous products… can lead to severe birth defects… have the potential of even affecting the central nervous system (CNS) including the brain… Some of these children can even be born with very small heads… have issues with hyper salivation. These mining activities that are going on if we are not careful, we will begin to see cases with several birth defects”.

And the Pediatric Society of Ghana in a communique signed by its President, Dr. John Adaboe Appiah, says: “The PSG adds its voice to the numerous calls to curb the galamsey menace that is destroying our forests, land, water bodies and contributing significantly to deaths of children exposed to chemicals used in mining, falling into abandoned mine pits among others… Exposure to chemicals such as lead, mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals from inappropriate disposal of waste, and the galamsey menace is contributing to deaths which affect their school performance and suspected to cause congenital malformations”. The PSG warns; “A half – hearted approach in dealing with galamsey is bound to fail”

Ghana was appropriately called the Gold Coast: we have gold in abundance, producing 4.6 million ounces in 2021, surpassing South Africa's production of 4 million ounces. It is believed that Ghana produces more gold per square kilometer than Nevada (U.S.A.) and has more reserves than key gold – producing countries like Peru and Papua New Guinea.

Perhaps we have built all our houses on gold, so pull them down and dig for gold. Emile Durkheim posits “Civilisation develops because it cannot fail to develop”. Shun the hubris, shun arrogance, shun haughtiness.

Jimmy Ciff sings: “Foolish pride will bring you helplessness, foolish pride will bring you emptiness… Your small mind, you will find or you incline…”

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By AfricanusOwusuAnsah