Still missing, the critical link in the galamsey war equation

Still missing, the critical link in the galamsey war equation

Recently, there has been mounting pressure on the Government, practically from all corners to urgently find a way of dealing a decisive blow to the menace of illegal mining, better known as ‘galamsey’.

Seemingly, all fronts are being tackled. Or rather, I should say ‘almost all’ fronts.

‘Almost’ because it appears to me that one aspect of the age-old war, about which I posed a question some years ago, has still been left untouched. My main question then, and now, relates to the missing link in the war against galamsey: where does the illegally mined gold, end up?

And now more importantly: HOW does it get to its destination without its source being an issue? WHO CONVEYS IT?

Yet, clearly tackling that angle is crucial to winning the galamsey war. The assurance of payment, getting ready cash in exchange for the galamsey gold, is surely the reason why the illegal mining continues, despite all the Government’s best efforts.

Why are the buyers of the illicit gold free to buy it from the illegal miners, no questions asked?

I posed my main question in 2017 in this space, but as there was no reaction from any quarters, my conclusion was that my question was considered irrelevant.

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However, to my joy, pride and appreciation, no less a person than the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, too, raised similar issues when he addressed the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs last Friday,

October 14, 2022, on his serious concerns about the galamsey menace.

In a well circulated video of that meeting, Otumfuo raised, among other issues, the following (my translation):

Where does the gold go? The gold doesn’t remain in Ghana. It’s exported. Who collects and exports the gold?

If you arrest that person, the galamsey will stop … and our polluted waters will be restored.

Why isn’t the person financing the operation, the one who bought the grader and the Caterpillar, being arrested? The poor labourer is the one arrested!
Chiefs, too are involved. Some of you are given money at home. Those of you benefiting from galamsey will in the end be exposed.

There is a question that has been agitating my mind for some time. Perhaps it’s a naïve one, but I will pose it just the same: why are they not being exposed, those at the other end of the galamsey scourge, the dealers who buy the gold for which the illegal miners risk so much?

Again, who are the people, or agencies, behind the scenes who evidently guarantee a ready market for those with illegal gold to sell? Surely, that must be the reason they appear to be in the grip of gold fever?

If there were no buyers, would so many be attracted into the perilous undertaking, and despite the destruction of the environment and communities being deprived of even water to drink?

Why is it that we only ever hear of the galamseyers, but never of measures against the destination of their gold?

By contrast, are receivers of stolen goods not as liable for arrest and prosecution as the thieves?
Why is there this inexplicable silence about sanctions and action against those who buy the gold illegally acquired? (Column of July 21, 2017 ‘The missing link in the galamsey war equation’.)

Religious leaders in the country have called for the immediate ban on small-scale mining to prevent degradation and pollution of the environment.
At a news conference in Accra on October 17, the religious leaders, said many groups or companies hide behind a legal licence to wreak havoc on the environment, hence their call for the ban.
The religious leaders represented: the Christian Council of Ghana; Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference; Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council; Office of the National Chief Imam; Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana; National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches; Council for Independent Churches and Para-Church Organisations.

The pressure group, ‘OccupyGhana’ proposes an equally drastic solution:
OccupyGhana is demanding confiscation by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of all illegal mining sites.
According to the group, without the lands, there would be no galamsey.
In an Open Letter dated October 17, OccupyGhana, urged the President to act quickly and decisively by targeting land owners who allow their lands to be used for galamsey.
“We, therefore, propose an amendment to the law to specifically criminalise the making of land available for galamsey operations, and the confiscation of all such lands to the state.”

However, clearly, if the Government and most of the society are pushing for the complete cessation of galamsey, it seems that the galamseyers are not perturbed.

There is currently a video circulating on social media, featuring some evidently, unrepentant and mocking galamseyers, daring President Akufo-Addo to do his worst. It shows a night-time galamsey operation at an unidentified place.

Excerpts from the impudent video, translated from the Twi, follow. A male voice is speaking; in the background, another voice can be heard hurling insults at the President; interspersed with derisive laughter.

“Akufo-Addo, do you see us? We’re on vigorous night work! Check and see; it’s going on, the work. It’s not every part of Ghana that you know. As for galamsey, we can’t stop it!

“This is the school we have graduated from. Even if you confiscate all our machines, we will wash the (ore) by hand. In a day, one can earn five million. Which of your workers do you pay five million a day?

“As for the galamsey, it will continue!”

If chiefs and religious leaders, who obviously have influence over the majority of the population, are joining forces with the Government, there is no reason why this war can't be won - except that measures against the buyers of the illegally mined gold, too, need to be part of the strategies.

Of course the mystery speaker in the video is right. President Akufo-Addo cannot possibly know all the nooks and crannies of Ghana. However, certainly the chiefs, and religious leaders do. And they, notably the chiefs, surely know where in their areas the galamsey is going on.

Above all, a way has to be found to confront the recipients aspect.
It seems to me that as long as there are eager buyers for the galamsey gold, with no questions asked, the lure of galamsey money will remain.

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