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Sat, 29 Jun 2013 Opinion

'GALAMSEY' A Canker In Western Region

By Daily Guide
Some Galamsey operating busy at workSome Galamsey operating busy at work
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Introduction:
HE WESTERN Region is endowed with much of the country's natural resources including gold and diamond.

The massive gold deposits in the mining communities of the region have led to many of the indigenes venturing into illegal small-scale mining operations.

In the Western Region, Artisanal and Small- Scale Mining (ASM), which is also called 'galamsey', is a practice dating back to pre-historic days.

The miners usually dig gold from the earth, wash away the soil and gravels and gather the mineral and sell; hence, the name, 'gather them and sell'

which has now metamorphosed into 'galamsey'.
Number Of Galamseyers In WR:
Even though the number of galamsey operators in the region is unknown, it is believed to range from 10,000 to 20,000.They mostly operate in the northern part of the region where there are substantial reserves of gold deposits, usually within the environs of the larger mining companies.

Many women are among the workers, acting mostly as porters for the miners. In some cases, galamsey operators are the first to discover and work extensive gold deposits before mining companies find out and take over.

Galamsey Threats
Illegal mining activities pose a major security threat to the Western Region, according to members of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC).

At their recent meeting, members of the REGSEC regretted that the operations of illegal miners in the region had considerably damaged the

environment and polluted major rivers such as Ankobra, Bonsa and other water bodies which serve as sources of drinking water.

Other negative consequences of the illegal mining activities in the region include destruction of lands for cultivation of cocoa, rubber and palm oil.

The chairman of the REGSEC and the Regional Minister, Ebenezer Teye Addo, bemoaned the blatant pollution of River Pra, the destruction of its

ecology at Daboase, near Takoradi, as well as the hampering of the smooth operations of the Ghana Water Company.

The Chinese Invasion
A total of 51 foreigners, prominent among them being Chinese nationals engaging in illegal mining activities in some mining communities in the

region, were recently arrested by the Regional Police Command in separate operations at different locations.

Earlier, about 200 Chinese had been deported to China by the Ghana Immigration Service.

However, this is just a tip of the iceberg as Chinese illegal miners numbering several thousands are mining gold in illegal mining pits all over the country.

The Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Gong Jianzhong, admitted that they had no clue as to the number of Chinese nationals operating in the illegal gold mining business, 'We are frustrated by this,' he told DAILY GUIDE.

Mr. Jianzhong has admitted that the Chinese embassy had not yet developed any scheme to gather database of its citizens in Ghana as several hundreds of them flocked the country daily.

What this meant was that, essentially, Ghanaian immigration and Chinese officials had no clue about the actual population of both legal and illegal Chinese immigrants in Ghana.

Several others are said to enter the country through neighbouring countries. The bulk of the illegal miners are said to hail from a city in China called Sanglin City where most of the residents are farmers.

Chinese authorities are unable to fathom how these farmers got to know the topography of Ghana's mineral-rich zones.

Qui Xuejun who is the deputy director general of the Consular Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs believed the influx of the Chinese

was aided by some faceless Ghanaian collaborators: 'Many of them are farmers, they never go abroad. How, how can they know there is gold here [Ghana] in some forest?'

Armed with excavators, bulldozers, other sophisticated equipment and guns, the foreign illegal miners were allegedly degrading farmlands, polluting rivers, destroying buildings and maiming people, in their quest to scramble for gold wherever the precious mineral was found.

There were also a number of robbery cases reported at the mining sites, ostensibly, attacks on Chinese nationals, according to the police.

A number of equipment including heavy duty excavators, Changfan dredging machines, 20- footer containers used as accommodation, generating plants, containers of diesel and mats for extracting gold deposits were confiscated by the police during the operation.

Speaking to journalists, the Western Regional Police Commander,

DCOP Kofi Boakye, noted that the police were aware of the dangers posed by illegal miners in the region, and that the situation had worsened because of hazardous and poisonous chemicals.

DCOP Boakye said that the police, in collaboration with other security services, would ensure that the activities of illegal miners in the region are nipped in the bud.

He stressed that his outfit would adopt pragmatic strategies to flush out illegal mining operators, particularly foreigners who were not supposed to engage in any form of small-scale mining.

'Some operators associate themselves with narcotic drugs and the proliferation of small arms such as locally made and imported pistols and robbery cases are prevalent at their camp sites,' he revealed.

Calamity
Calamity struck a joint security task force in an operation to flush out illegal miners who have been polluting the Pra River when two naval men got drowned in the river.

As a result of the catastrophe, members of the REGSEC have vowed not sit aloof and watch the region's water destroyed, environment degraded and the lives of people put in jeopardy, simply because some people wanted to explore for gold, using primitive implements.

The Visit To Kutukrom
A recent visit by DAILY GUIDE to Kutukrom in the Evalue-Gwira constituency revealed that foreign nationals who had sought refuge in the farming community and some of the indigenes were engaged in illegal gold mining.

DAILY GUIDE discovered that in some cases the illegal foreign miners were aided by traditional chiefs and landowners. The paper even heard allegations about the involvement of some key politicians in the country. DAILY GUIDE gathered that in each case their assistance was obtained through the payment of bribes.

It was revealed that the illegal miners often use a Chinese-made machine, to suck up the mud from river beds. This stirs up the waters and destroys aquatic life.

The process involves the use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide, which are often discarded into the rivers, contaminating drinking water and killing fish—a food source for the local communities.

At Prestea and Bogoso, most of the galamseyers argued that the unavailability of jobs had led illegal mining.

Regulatory review
Members of the Western Regional Network of NGOs (WERENGO) have called on the government to repeal section 17 of the Mineral and Mining

Act 703 of 206 which allows mineral right holders to exploit water bodies within their concessions with few restrictions.

This, according to them, would help discourage illegal small-scale miners from mining in the country's water bodies and polluting them.

In promoting the stoppage of illegal mining in the region, the WERENGO members called on the

Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to hasten the procedure for acquiring small-scale mining license as recommended by the law.

They also stressed that there was the need for government to ensure that better and effective closure and reclamation plans were implemented by mining companies.

They, however, commended government's efforts in promoting transparent and accountable governance in the Natural Resource and Environment sector.

These were contained in a communiqué adopted at the first Western Regional Natural Resource and Environment Summit held in Takoradi.

'We urge the Ministry of Energy to review the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultation processes in order to increase community understanding,' they maintained.

The communiqué recommended that government should learn from other models of co-management of forest resources and work towards ensuring the promotion of co-management at the national level.

'We again call on government to decouple regulatory and promoter role of mining by Minerals Commission and strengthen its institutions to better

enforce laws and mitigation measures,' it added.
According to mining pundits, Illegal mining should be seen as a national problem and must be given the attention it deserves. In addition, politicians

should be brave to take bold decisions to save the country for future generations and not sacrifice what is good on the altar of political expediency.

BY Emmanuel Opoku

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