John Peter Amewu, Minister for Land and Natural Resources
Minister for Land and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, is advocating a radical solution to the menace of illegal mining.
He believes the excavators with which the illegal miners are wreaking havoc on the environment and polluting water bodies should be blown up when they are seized.
Currently, the miners are made to pay paltry sums to have their excavators returned.
But Mr. Amewu says this is not punitive enough.
“It has been established that more than 60% of the earth moving equipment brought into this country are…up there deep in the forests excavating [the soil].
“I’m not a fan of going to seize an equipment and keeping it; if you seize an equipment you blow it up,” he stated.
Mr. Amewu drew a dramatic comparison between illegal mining, known in local parlance as galamsey, and cocaine dealing.
“How do you take cocaine and say you are keeping it? You must destroy it for the public to see that it is a wrong thing. What is happening is not different from an illegal trade,” he told Joy FM’s Suoer Morning Show host Kojo Yankson.
There is an historic national anger and mobilisation against the menace of illegal mining.
The involvement of Chinese in the illegal activity appears to have exacerbated the problem.
The Ghana Water Company has made a bleak projection that the country may be forced to import water for consumption in the next decade if the current rate of pollution of water sources continues.
This frightening assessment appears to have jolted many Ghanaians into action with media organisations leading the campaign to end galamsey in Ghana.
Mr. Amewu who has barely spent a month on the job has prioritised ending galamsey.
He has given all illegal miners three weeks to stop digging the earth and destroying the environment in search of gold.
He said the government is adopting a comprehensive policy to tackle the problem, recognising that previous attempts to end galamsey has not yilded the desired results.
The business is lucrative and the miners are not only desperately poor and resilient people, but are also backed by powerful politicians, security commanders and traditional leaders.
“There are three-pronged approach we are using – we’ve started with diplomatic talks with the various foreign countries [whose nationals] are involved in it; that will be followed by a media and public advocacy which will continue for about five years. What is going to follow this advocacy and the diplomatic approach is going to be a combative and militant approach to get them out of their areas of operation,” he said.
Beyond this he said the government also intends to roll out what he called a Multilateral Mining Integration Project (MMIP).
Under this project, he said, the government will reintegrate those who were formerly involved in illegal mining to mine sustainably and under strict supervision.
With the MMIP, “certain acreages of land will be located and a minimum level of exploration will be done to determine the prospective of the area.”
This will stop the current haphazard digging of every part of the earth and its concomitant destruction of the environment.
“We are thinking of coming along with a central processing plant – some of these plants will be put at various process centres so that the miners can bring their ore to be processed for them at a fee,” he said.
This, he stressed, will significantly reduce the rate of pollution and destruction of the environment.