The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, has expressed government’s resolve to address the activities of illegal small-scale miners, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, in the country.
He said the government had identified three-prong approaches which included enacting stiffer laws, leveraging technology and enforcing existing laws to tackle the menace.
“These interventions will, however, require first, identifying the challenges and the available opportunities in the country,” the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, said at a workshop in Accra last week.
The workshop was on the theme: “Addressing the Galamsey Menace: Challenges and Opportunities” and was aimed at informing policy efforts directed at addressing the galamsey menace in the country.
Mr Amewu observed that although illegal small-scale mining in the country drove local economies and rural livelihoods in many mining communities, the associated negative impacts were far reaching and outstripped any benefits.
“The environmental footprint of galamsey include deep exposed excavations filled with contaminated water, irresponsible dumping of sewage and solid waste, uncontrolled dust emissions, release of chemicals such as cyanide and mercury, acid mine drainage, river siltation and deforestation,” he added.
The social impacts include child labour, migration of people, increased prostitution and HIV/AIDS infections, poor sanitation, conflicts and cultural adulteration, fatalities and injuries to human health as well as high school dropout.
The minister cited several challenges that have hampered the successful implementation of measures to control the activities in the country.
He said the persistent rise in the invasion of mining concessions by illegal miners was attributable to the inability of the state to deal with the issue.
“These have been attributed to factors such as inability to enforce laws, ownership of land as against ownership of minerals, the spectrum of people involved, development of cold diplomatic relations with affected foreign nationals and necessary support from some state institutions and every citizen,” he said.
That phenomenon, the minister said, would lead to a slowdown in investment and negatively impact on the fortunes of the country’s mining industry, if the needed measures were not adopted.
Import drinking water
For his part, the Chief of Sankubenase in the Eastern Region, Osabarima Asiedu Boafo, said the country would soon import drinking water “if the government does not develop means to halt the activities of illegal miners.”
“Galamsey, the illicit form of artisanal small-scale gold mining, have for decades caused a significant alteration to water bodies, flora and fauna, soils and landscapes, human health and safety and air quality in Ghana,” he added.
He added that due to their illegal nature, ensuing wastelands and devastation were left abandoned and un-reclaimed. Efforts to monitor these illegal miners foster their formalisation and the reclamation of abandoned wastelands are gradually gathering momentum in recent times.
“Attempting to go in defence of gold mining in the country, therefore, has to be done with caution in order not to step on already sore toes. The biggest problem with mining is its environmental challenges and this could be greatly minimised or totally controlled if well regulated and the rules rigidly enforced,” he said.
Once that is done, Osaberima Asiedu Boafo said, gold mining could be a profitable enterprise with enormous benefits to the nation, businesses and the immediate communities in which they were located.