The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has commended the government for its bold step to halt illegal mining (galamsey), that is destroying the environment.
He has, therefore, given his blessing to the decision to suspend small-scale mining for six months,
Otumfuo Osei Tutu, who said he had personally flown over some mining communities in the Ashanti Region and seen what he described as the shocking devastation, said the illegal miners had taken the entire nation “as prisoners and destroyed our environment.”
The Asantehene was interacting with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, who had paid a courtesy call on him at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi last Friday at the start of a three-day tour of the Ashanti Region.
He was in the region to inspect illegal mining sites, interact with stakeholders and rally public support for the fight against the destruction of the environment.
His entourage included his two deputy ministers: Mrs Barbara Ayisi and Benito Owusu Bio, the Australian High Commissioner in Accra and his wife, Mr Andrew Barnes and Theresa Barnes; the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie and officials of the Minerals Commission.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu noted that the destruction of the environment did not start yesterday and expressed disquiet about how people who were put in positions of trust at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minerals Commission and were paid with the taxpayers’ money, failed to do the right thing.
He also blamed the inaction of those agencies on the lack of political will.
The Asantehene also wondered why those who claim to be small-scale miners and had been engaging in legal mining sat unconcerned while their colleagues destroyed the environment with careless abandon.
He urged Ghanaians to support the fight against illegal mining.
He said he did not understand why gold, which helped build places such as Johannesburg, would rather spell the doom of Ghana’s environment.
On the way forward, the Asantehene urged the government to put in place sustainable and pragmatic measures to reclaim the destroyed lands and plant trees to ensure the restoration of the ecosystem.
He also asked the government to liaise with international bodies, such as UNESCO and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial support in its quest to reclaim the destroyed lands.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu called on the government to come out with alternative livelihood measures for those who depended on illegal mining to be able to earn a living so that they would not resort to engaging in anti-social activities.
Australian High Commissioner
Mr Barnes for his part, told Otumfuo Osei Tutu that the Australian Government was excited to partner the government and people of Ghana to fight the scourge of galamsey that was destroying the environment.
He said Australia, like Ghana, had a long history of mining and that with the Australian experience, his country would be able to assist Ghana to develop a sustainable way of mining its resources to be able to protect the environment for posterity.
He pleaded with the Asantehene to use his authority to ensure that chiefs who were allegedly conniving with illegal miners put a stop to it.
The Minister commended Otumfuo for his relentless efforts to make the nation’s forest and water bodies clean for inter-generational equity.
He reiterated that the Akufo-Addo government was not anti-mining but abhorred mining in water bodies, along or close to water bodies, mining with dangerous chemicals, adding that the government was for private sector development and would insist that small-scale mining remained the preserve of only Ghanaians.