Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo has said the country cannot continue to have “one part of the political divide campaigning for galamsey in the bush, and the other waging an official fight against galamsey in the open”, a silly situation that has frustrated the campaign against illegal small scale mining and its ripple effects.
The President proposed an urgent need for a united front in the campaign against illegal small scale mining, where all stakeholders would demonstrate a genuine and sincere commitment at tackling the menace with a sense of urgency.
He said it is not enough to sit back and make all manner of unsubstantiated allegations about persons in both high and low places supposedly benefiting from the illegality without being responsible enough to back such claims with evidence that would get the supposed culprits prosecuted.
“I am determined to enforce the laws on illegal mining no matter the subject, high or low. I will, however, not act on the basis of hearsay or mere allegations without more. I will not hesitate to act, though, where the evidence is hard before the Police, and I will do so irrespective of the standing of the person or persons involved. That is the true meaning of equality before the law”, Akufo-Addo noted in his address at the maiden Consultative Dialogue on Small-Scale Mining, organized by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on Wednesday April 14.
Speaking on the theme, “Sustainable Small-Scale Mining for National Development”, President Akufo-Addo said expressed the hope that at the end of the Consultative Dialogue, stakeholders should be able to build a broad-based national consensus around the necessity to stamp out the menace of illegal small-scale mining, and the need to support and grow responsible small-scale mining.
He continued: “There are aspects of our national life which are fair subject matters of partisan politics. We must, however, come to the understanding that small scale mining, and the requirement to do away with illegalities in that sector, should be beyond partisan politics. Some subjects simply cannot be part of our everyday politicking, and I urge this forum to insist that illegal small-scale mining, and matters relating to it, should be one of such issues requiring national effort.
“Government has a major responsibility to this end, as we are accountable for the stewardship of this sector, as, indeed, we are of all other sectors of national life…
“We want to build on the modest progress made in my first term. We want to learn from our shortcomings and receive productive inputs from this forum for purposes of enhancing the regulation of the sector. Out of this maiden consultative dialogue, I hope we will build a national consensus around a national policy on small scale mining, that promotes a responsible, viable, environmentally sustainable small-scale mining industry, which has discarded the use of mercury, chanfans and excavators, which has barred the involvement of foreign nationals, and which has rejected the destruction of our forests, environment and water bodies”, the President added.
He explained that mining, in itself is not a wrong thing to do but it must be done appropriately and in accordance to established regulations and best safe practices.
“There is nothing wrong with mining, or trying to exploit the minerals we have been blessed with to develop our country. A substantial part of the revenue of the central government comes from mining. Indeed, the central government is always trying to find innovative ways to maximize the earnings from mining in order to provide public infrastructure. Families too depend on incomes from mining activities to put food on the table.
“Mining becomes problematic and dangerous, when methods employed pose a danger to the land, the water bodies, and the very lives of the people. Mining becomes a danger to the society when, after extracting the gold, diamond, or other stones and minerals, the land is left degraded and poisoned with toxic materials, the water bodies are turned into entities that can no longer support life, and plants and fish cannot survive in our rivers. Mining becomes a danger to the society, when the sites are abandoned, leaving behind craters filled with mercury and other poisons, which cannot support anymore fauna or plant life.
“We have had beautiful and majestic rivers and streams. Today, there is not much to celebrate about the Pra or the Birim, and there is not much to be excited about over our famed thick forests and the animals that inhabit them. Unacceptable mining and logging practices have laid them to waste”, Akufo-Addo added.