I vehemently beg to disagree with US Ambassador Robert P Jackson on the need to formalize the activities of Galamseyers, or illegal miners, to ensure that these nation-wreckers practice their predatory trade with the minimum of havoc to our water bodies and land and forestry resources (See “Formalizing Galamsey Operations Will Bring Sanity – US Ambassador” Graphic.com.gh 6/17/17). This is the one area of our national life and existence where Ghanaian leaders ought to stake their peremptory authority.
In other words, the only input that the Akufo-Addo Administration ought to require and/or solicit from the United States and its Chief Diplomat on the ground, and from any other economically and technologically advanced nation, for that matter, must be funding and environmental protection expertise in the all-out war against the deleterious impact of Galamsey, and not advisement on how to allow illegal mining activities to proceed even on a strictly regulated basis.
As has been widely observed over the course of nearly two decades now, at least, the best way to preserve our environmental and water bodies is to totally stop the wantonly predatory activities of illegal miners. Policing these predatory activities would entail a lot of funding resources and a dimension of expertise that President Donald John Trump’s government may not be prepared to invest in any foreign country from which the United States does not receive a proportional amount of benefits.
It is also significant to observe that the Trump government is the least environmentally friendly or protective that Americans have had in the last 30 years. Properly speaking, President Trump’s Administration may be strikingly and accurately described as a veritable Galamsey Machinery, and so Ambassador Jackson’s advice must be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. A man who does not believe in the palpable ravages of climate change, cannot be expected to have the interest of an environmentally fragile Third-World nation like Ghana at heart. Besides, it is Ghanaians themselves who have lived and suffered from the wantonly predatory activities of the largely reckless operatives of the Galamsey industry.
I also don’t see the validity of the argument of Ambassador Jackson, vis-à-vis the purportedly valuable skills of the Galamseyers. If, indeed, the mining skills of the Galamseyers are that indispensable, then what Ambassador Jackson actually ought to be advocating, should be for these illegal miners to be absorbed by the large and legally operating mining companies in the country which are known to observe the relevant safety standards, and not for the Akufo-Addo government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to be blindly chaperoning or quixotically managing a patently destructive environmental illegality.
Ghanaians can simply not take Ambassador Jackson seriously on the Galamsey subject, because he is working for a rabidly anti-Obama government that has been sedulously and studiously engaged in the wholesale rollback, or reversal, of nearly every progressive social-intervention program established by the first African-American President of the United States, for the well-being of predominantly poor, ethnic minorities, and woefully economically deprived American citizens. Better skills training and employment opportunities need to be created for Galamseyers, including the retraining of these human economic and environmental nuisances in the modern high-tech industry.
We must also highlight the fact that whatever skills the bulk of these Galamseyers may possess are purely basic and formally untutored, which do not readily translate into anything worthwhile or substantive, in terms of job transfer or career change. Ambassador Jackson also got me literally falling off my chair with uncontrollable laughter, when I read the quote in which he was alleged to have said that “For a number of years, [the US government] has had programs working with Ghana’s Environmental Agency on water and air quality.”
And so Ambassador Jackson, how come we are being told by scientists and environmental experts on the ground that at least 60-percent of Ghana’s waterbodies have been polluted beyond drinkable? Our elders have wisely said that it is the wearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches the worst. Let Ghanaians be the final judges of whether to totally prohibit the destructive activities of illegal miners, by looking at the balance sheet of the net benefits of Galamsey vis-à-vis the long-term impact on our environment and our existence as a nation and an ancient civilization.
*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
June 17, 2017