Small-Scale Miners Association has expressed disappointment that government is treating them as persons involved in illegal mining and has ordered the military to burn their excavators and other mining equipment.
The Association has warned that within the next seven days, its members would embark on a massive anti-government protest across the country if the military personnel tasked to stop illegal small-scale mining also known as galamsey does not stop burning the equipment of authorized and legitimate small scale miners.
“As far as we know, the military was deployed to specific river bodies but we are seeing a situation where they veer into communities with licensed small-scale miners and end up burning their equipment… We need clarifications on the President’s directive to the military. If nothing is heard from them, we will embark on a three-day nationwide demonstration”, Abdul Razak Alhassan, Communications Director for the Association noted at a press conference he addressed at Ntaferewaso in the Twifo-Atti Morkwa District of the Central Region, on Monday.
Abdul Razak Alhassan said the Association does not understand why the government made a U-turn on the issues raised at the meeting held recently at the Accra International Conference.
“We never discussed anything about involving the military in clearing people operating with legally-acquired licenses… We are giving the government seven days to address these concerns”, he added.
Opinions remain divided over a declaration by the Minister for Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, that henceforth, all equipment used for illegal small scale mining, commonly known as galamsey, that would be found on such mining sites would be seized, burnt to ashes or destroyed through other means.
While dust is yet to settle on that debate, here we have the Small-Scale Miners Association wading into the controversy and raising red flags that although they are registered and duly licensed miners, their excavators and equipment are being seized and burnt as well.
Barely a fortnight ago, socio-political non-partisan pressure group, OccupyGhana cautioned that the Minister’s directive constitutes a gross illegality.
The group explained that it is illegal for government to burn or destroy such seized equipment because there are already properly laid down regulations on how such seized equipment should be handled and the options do not include burning of such seized equipment.
A news statement issued said OccupyGhana is “shocked to see pictures and films in which equipment allegedly being used in Galamsey operations and apparently seized by security officials, have been set on fire. While these dramatic optics might have the support of some, we think that it is a brazen illegality that will only exacerbate the situation and not help in the fight against Galamsey.”
The statement continued that “the government’s epileptic and faltering fight Galamsey gives the impression that it is unwilling to follow and apply the law.
“Also, and of particular importance to us, is the legal provision that equipment used in any of these offences is required to be first seized and kept in police custody. Then, when the person using the equipment for the illegal mining activity is convicted, the court will order the forfeiture of the equipment the state. Then the Minister has 60 days within which to allocate the equipment to a state institution. There is absolutely no legal room for simply torching the equipment. It is illegal and must stop forthwith.
“We think that all the efforts to end illegal mining will not achieve anything until we resolve to simply enforce the law. If the security agencies make arrests and the law is not applied, it weakens their resolve and says to all that we are not serious about ending this menace. And the judiciary should need no encouragement to try cases with dispatch so that Ghanaians can see results in real time. It cannot be business as usual.
“We have two simple messages for the government – (1) Galamsey is illegal: the fight against it cannot be based on illegality and, (2) If you want to win the fight against Galamsey, APPLY THE LAW”, the OccupyGhana statement added.