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07.05.2017 Feature Article

Who Says Banning Galamsey Would Stop The Problem?

Who Says Banning Galamsey Would Stop The Problem?
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If for nothing at all, we have two important case studies to rely on for effective policy initiatives when it comes to the fight against illegal mining, aka Galamsey. These two important cases are the fight against narcotics and alcohol usage. Studies upon studies have revealed that banning human activities often lead to unintended consequences including black marketerism, smuggling, and rent seeking profits among others.

It is in the light of these that I find it very amazing that policy makers within the rank and file of the ruling NPP think that banning galamsey will eliminate the menace of surface mining that is destroying the very fabric of our existence as agrarian economy. To quote but one popular comedian and artist, those policy advisers “don’t think far” and they think “madness”.

In the U.S. for example, the decades old fight against drugs has led to a huge underground trade in narcotics with huge profits for those who engage in it. It has also led to huge prison population with its disastrous effect on states’ finances and families. There are untold numbers of fatherless families within the black and Hispanic populations because the fathers are serving jail sentences due to drug offences. Compared to a nation like Holland where the drug issue is liberalized to some extent, very few people are in jail for drug related offences and the government is able to use policy initiatives to regulate the industry.

In Ghana where cannabis or “weed” as it is popularly called, is completely banned for years, have we been able to stop the cultivation or smoking of weed? What about cocaine? Have we been able to stop people from smuggling cocaine into the country? If not, then what the heck informs the judgment of those who think that banning galamsey will stop it ouright?

It is unrealistic to think that banning any human activity will cause people to stop it. It will instead create an underground trade in the banned activity and those who would succeed in it will do so with huge rent/profit

When alcohol was a banned substance in the US some decades ago, people never stopped the production and consumption of it, instead, the price shot up and those who traded in it secretly made very huge returns whiles the states spent enormous resources to hunt for distributors and manufacturers until the policy was changed and alcohol was no longer a banned substance. That allowed the government to put a huge tax on it and also regulate consumption to some extent. Alcohol tax alone in the US is very substantial revenue indeed.

THE GALAMSEY ISSUE
Outright banning of galamsey in Ghana will definitely not work. It will rather cause a lot of disaffection for the government whiles in the end, the cost of policing the ban may out-run the perceived benefits. I am equally against the damage being done to our rivers and forest reserves, however, I do not subscribe to the idea of outright ban for the following reasons:

1. There is no major difference between small scale mining and galamsey in their disastrous effects on the environment. To me, the only difference is that, one group has a permit to destroy the environment, whilst the other group has no permit but destroy the environment anyway. They both have the same effect on the environment so it does not make sense to ban one and allow the other to operate.

2. To the extent that we continue to issue license for small scale mining, we shall forever have illegal small scale mining called galamsey, because locals perceive that, they equally have the right to the resources in their own communities and will not stand idle by for strangers to come from afar to plunder those resources whiles they stand and stare.

3. Foreign companies have mined these precious minerals for years and there is very little benefit, if any at all, to show forth in the lives of indigenes who own the land that these minerals are taken from. The people have realized this and are taking the steps to let the minerals benefit them and their communities. Just look at Obuasi, Tarkwa, Konongo and a host of the old mining towns and you will be amazed at the level of poverty and social decadence in those towns.

4. There is huge unemployment among the youth so, to the extent that people find galamsey a useful employment, they will never stop unless there is an alternative means of livelihood.

THE BEST WAY FORWARD
1. The best way in solving this problem is to allow all individuals who want to engage in small scale mining to register and obtain license to operate.

2. Such registrants must be oriented on the effects of the chemicals they use on their own health and on the health of society when they silt into our rivers and lakes.

3. They must also be schooled on the effects of deforestation and the need to protect our forest reserves.

4. The parliament must also come out with strong laws and punitive measures to punish people who will operate within 500 feet of any river bank. Any miner whose activity would pollute a river must be punished severely with long jail sentences. It would be very easy when residents see pollution in a river to trace it to the source of the pollution and bring the perpetrators to book.

5. Any miner found to operate in any forest reserve must be harshly punished including possibly life sentence without the possibility of parole.

6. Individual miners must be made to obtain license from the local assembly and pay taxes to both the state and the locality. This would accord the assemblies the right to monitor and control the activities of the miners since they can issue and withdraw license to the miners

By and large, though I share the opinion that galamsey, is bad and is causing serious damage to our country, a proper regulation is the better option and not outright ban.

Benjamin Opoku Agyepong
Benjamin Opoku Agyepong, © 2017

The author has 58 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: BenjaminOpokuAgyepong

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily 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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