Illegal mining, popularly referred to as galamsey, has been with man, especially in Africa and Ghana, since time immemorial. Stories are told of people gathering gold from the sand in the olden days and exchanging it for money or other goods and services.
It is from these “ gathering” and “selling’’ that got the name “gather and sell,” which has been corrupted into galamsey.
With time, these gatherers moved into using simple tools and implements such as hoes, pick-axes for their activities. This was common in the 1980s and 90s.
Around the 2000s, these miners copied the way the small-scale miners were working and also introduced earth moving equipment into their operations. This is when the real problem started! The “galamsayers” started widespread and large-scale plundering of the environment.
This led to serious and unprecedented land degradation and water pollution, with even our Western neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, complaining about the practice in Ghana that had led to serious pollution of their waters that flow from or through Ghana.
That was how serious the activities of illegal miners were, a situation that could have resulted in a diplomatic row.
It was for these and many more others that the government put measures in place to halt the unbridled pollution of the environment which had also had serious effects for the future generation. The media, as the fourth estate of the realm and key partners of development, also formed a coalition to fight the canker.
A lot has since been achieved.
For instance, the Ghana Water Company Limited has said after the fight against the canker, the company spends less in terms of chemicals to treat water for domestic use. Some farmers have also testified that their farmlands have for some time now been spared destruction by the illegal miners.
However, it seems that while the media coalition, the government and the police/military Operation Vanguard (set up to directly protect the environment from galamsey) are doing their best, the fight still faces a lot of challenges.
If the fight is to be won, the Daily Graphic believes there is more to be done. The concern expressed by the Convener of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey for harsher punishment for those convicted of galamsey offences should be taken seriously or else we would be fighting a losing battle.
Again, we are aware that many of the people arrested for their involvement in galamsey operations are back to” business as usual”, knowing very well that what they can get from their illegal operations will be far more than the fines that will be imposed on them when they are put before court.
We are aware that the coalition has petitioned the Attorney General and the Chief Justice and are hopeful that the petition will receive prompt attention.
We admonish that the country should marshal all its arsenal to ensure that the good work started is not stalled, otherwise it would have been better if it had not started at all.
Fines and sentences imposed should be deterrent enough to ensure that the fight is successful, else we will live to regret soon as a nation.