Feature Article of Thursday, 18 April 2013
Columnist: Yeboah, Nii Kenneth
In recent times, hardly does a week pass without a report in the media on the issue of illegal mining, stories of galamsey operators exchanging fire with security personal and some being trapped and killed underground keep coming in by the day. A lot of noise is made from all quarters each time this sort of news comes up, but the noise dies out quickly until another incident occurs again. There have been several attempts by authorities to bring an end to the galamsey menace but no progress has been made to that effect over the years. Force has been the main approach used by the authorities to stop these illegal miners but it is evident that it has not yielded any positive results so far. This approach of using force to stop the galamsey menace is like trying to get rid of a tree totally by just cutting of the branches and leaving the trunk and the roots just for the tree to grow back to its former state in a short time.
Our old folks say that for a fish to go bad, it starts from that head. We have gotten to where we are as country because of mistakes made in the past by people we entrusted the future of this country to but what is so worrying is that, these same mistakes are being repeated by the leaders of today. We have over the years failed in the area of research in these localities where these resources are deposited. We were not able to research in order to get a picture of what the small scale mining sector would have been able to contribute to our economy today. We failed to make active projections and plans that would have guided the development of the small scale miningindustry us we do for other sectors sub-sectors under sectors like Agriculture. All the concentration has been on how to bring in multinational companies to mine and just provide the people who own the lands with some few community centers, classroom blocks and clinics while they wallow in poverty. We have also failed in developing the human resource in these localities; these and many other short falls have brought us to where we are now. I will like to reiterate that we are still repeating the same mistakes we made in the past. I stand to be corrected with data if this has not been the situation over the years.
Calls from authorities and some Ghanaian for the use of force to stop the galamseyoperators brings pictures of Niger Delta and other natural resource rich areas in Africa that have turned into hot spots into mind. I believe taking the path of force to try to stop galamseyis a dangerous ground to tread as nation. It is evident in investigations carried out in recent times that some chiefs, landowners and foreigners with financial backing collaborate with these illegal miners to carry out their activities. This situation is a very dangerous situation because as the security forces continue to use force, these illegal miners will be forced to protect themselves and fight back since thegalamsey business has become the only means of survival in such areas. The foreign and local financiers may take advantage of the situation and equipping them with guns to fight off the security forces. This will mean that we will be gradually creating hot spots in these areas. This is a situation that is gradually creeping in as we have had reports of galamsey operators attacking security officers in recent times like the one that was reported in February of this year in the Bosomtwe Forest Reserve at Koneyaw near Bekwai where a 20 man security contingent reportedly organized by the Forestry Commission to stop illegal miners were butchered and had their weapons seized by the galamsey operators, leaving some of the officers hospitalized. This and many of these sort of reports that keep surfacing week in and week out should serve as warning signs to our experts who have decided to use force as a main approach in addressing this issue.
Solving the illegal mining menace is not going to be a day’s event where the results will be available for all to see immediately. This problem should be tackled in a systematic process with critical attention to sequencing, where the right step is taken at right time. I think the point of attack in addressing this issue should be an attempt to take out the minors who are involved in this activity at expense of their future and the future of this country as a whole. Taking out these minors and giving them proper education and training and assuring them a better future will be a sure way breaking the tradition of families involved in illegal mining from transferring the baton to their children. Providing alternate means of survival in these communities, finding ways of bringing these locals under associations and groups where structures are put in place to help them do their mining in more acceptable ways that will be beneficial to them and the nation are some of the means that we have to adopt to help fight the losses we incurring through illegal mining. The problem is already here with us and we need to tackle it, it is a big problem that can’t be solved with one big event as I have already said, it is probably going to take us some number of years to solve this problem but a journey of thousand miles begins with one step.
I will like conclude by stating that if force was a productive way of handling issue of this sort, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s “aabaye” task force would cleared the streets of Accra of hawkers years ago. I will therefore like to ask all stakeholdersand the best brains we have in this country to come together and draw a useful road mate that will guide the nation irrespective who is in government, or who is occupying any particular office at any particular time, in addressing this issue.We need to take the bull by the horn so that our gold would not become a curse to us.
KENNETH NII YEBOAH