The Paramount Chief of the Essikadu Traditional Area, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, has called for the prosecution of powerful persons involved in illegal mining popularly known as ‘galamsey’, to curb the menace.
He said powerful persons who were behind illegal mining in the various mining communities were always left off the hook, while people they used to carry out their agenda were rather targeted.
Speaking at a national forum in Accra last Wednesday on irresponsible mining activities in the country, Nana Nketsia said those who influenced illegal mining behind the scene were “victimisers”, while persons actively involved in galamsey were “victims”.
He said, “There are individuals or group of persons somewhere who are creating the system that is victimising innocent young men. The young men causing environmental damage are victims of the corrupt system. We have to go after those responsible for creating the victims who are destroying the future of Ghanaians.”
The forum was organised by the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Minining (WACAM), a non-governmental organisation that works with mining communities affected by mining activities, in collaboration with an Accra-based radio station, Citi FM and Tropenbos Ghana, a private firm that works at bridging the gap between forest policy and management and science.
It was on the theme: “Mobilising national efforts for responsible mining” and brought together stakeholders in the mining sector to deliberate on effective and sustainable measures to address the mining menace.
The participants, among others delved into the root causes of irresponsible mining and made recommendations to the government.
Commending the media for launching the campaign against illegal mining, Nana Nketsia urged them not to make it a nine-day wonder, saying: “You cannot stop now that we are awake. You cannot go back to sleep. It is unpardonable and those yet unborn will never forgive us.”
The Chief of Akyem Hemang, Osabarima Mmirikkissi Okasum Apori Atta, who co-chaired the forum, noted that illegal mining continued to pose a threat to water bodies leading to the lack of potable water.
The development, he said, called for enforcement of the mining laws to the letter, while the media continued to play its watch-dog role and Ghanaians demanded accountability from the Executive.
If not addressed, he said, the citizenry would rise in a revolt since their water bodies and farm lands had been destroyed.
A Professor from the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Patrick Agbesinyale, who spoke on the health effects of mining on the public, said the use of mercury was the cause of the rising kidney diseases in the country.
“We cannot stand aloof because we are in the urban areas. The mercury the people downstream use has entered the food chain and there are fatal effects, especially for children,” he stressed.
In a welcome address, the Executive Director of WACAM, Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, said the organisation, through its work with about 80 mining-affected communities had come into contact with the stark realities of the impact of mining on communities.
He said the impact found expression in respect of access to water, clean environment, loss of livelihood, human rights abuses, heavy metal seepages and spillages into the environment which had translated into health risks.
She, therefore, called on stakeholders in the mining industry to apply principles that deal with the destruction of the environment.
The Executive Director of the Centre for Public Interest Law, Mr Augustine Niber, advocated that regulators should be empowered to prosecute offenders of the mining laws.
He explained that under the amended Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (703), regulators do not have the power to prosecute.
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