Illegal mining, which is popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’, has caused a lot of damage to the country’s water bodies and destroyed large tracts of land.
The wanton destruction was what caused the government to place a two-year ban on small-scale mining which has since been lifted, and was supported by a media campaign against galamsey.
Thankfully, it was not a wasted effort as we are beginning to reap the benefits of that exercise. The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) recently reported that all the treatment plants which were shut down because of the heavy pollution of their water sources were all fully back on stream.
On the back of that good news and the lifting of the ban on small-scale mining, sections of the public expressed worry that we might go back to the pollution of our rivers as the government had not communicated its plans to sustain the gains made from the ban.
However, the Daily Graphic believes that the announcement by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Hajia Alima Mahama, that 500 people who were engaged in illegal mining, have been enrolled in vocational and technical training institutions, should set hearts at ease.
We have always clamoured for sustainable forms of alternative livelihoods for the youth engaged in illegal mining so that they will not go back to desecrate our lands and rivers, and we are happy that the government has listened to the voice of the people by providing an avenue for them to learn new trades and obtain employable skills under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.
The Daily Graphic believes that the one-year intensive programme in building and construction, electrical and automobile engineering, catering, dressmaking, interior decoration, among other programmes being pursued by beneficiaries from mining communities in Kyebi and Aduasa in the Birim South District of the Eastern Region since September last year is in the right direction and we applaud the government for undertaking this initiative.
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We also doff our hat to the government for not only spending GH¢650 on each of the beneficiaries for the training but also offering each beneficiary an amount of GH¢250 as allowance for their upkeep, which will also serve as an incentive to commit them to their training.
Nonetheless, we urge the government to provide all the assistance needed by the institutions it is liaising with so that the programme will not be truncated along the line. Also, there are 1,500 more people eagerly waiting to have the opportunity to learn new skills so that they are not lured back into galamsey.
They must not be forgotten, especially when the government has itself pledged to accept more applications, especially from the northern sector, and roll out the second phase of the exercise in July this year.
We urge the beneficiaries to also justify the working tools and the start-up capital of not less than GH¢500 that will be given to them at the end of their training, by committing to complete and starting up their own alternative jobs that will prevent them from going back to their old ways.
That notwithstanding, if we are to completely win the war against illegal mining and its effects on the country, we have to employ a multi-pronged approach which will also include making the venture unattractive.
The Daily Graphic, therefore, urges that while the government provides alternative livelihoods for illegal miners, enforcement of the laws against the practice must not be sacrificed – perpetrators must be brought to book.
And that is why the lapses identified in the activities of Operation Vanguard must be addressed immediately.