President Nana Akufo-Addo has said his government “will not weaken its stance” against illegal mining and has welcomed every support the campaign can get from the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining.
“Mr Speaker, the threat posed to the future of our country by galamsey is grave, and we cannot shirk our responsibilities in dealing with it”, the President said on Thursday, 20 February 2020 when he presented his fourth State of the Nation Address, adding: “I am appealing to the Media Coalition not be daunted by the difficulties in the fight against galamsey”.
He said: “When we came into office in January 2017, galamsey activities were rampant in many parts of our country. Our lands, forests and river bodies were being systematically degraded and polluted without any care. And this had been the case for several years. Indeed, the previous government had given up the fight against galamsey. We determined that this was an intolerable situation, and we owed it to generations yet unborn, to tackle the problem and save our environment.
“I was very much aware that the lure of gold, once it takes hold, drives away all rationality. That is not a Ghanaian characteristic, it is a human characteristic that has been displayed all over the world, throughout the ages. I was, therefore, not under any illusions about the size and scope of the problem we were taking on.
“But, I was cheered by the support from a large part of the population that also recognised the danger posed by the degradation of our lands and water bodies, and the needless deaths of young people, who were being buried alive in makeshift mining pits. I welcomed, in particular, the Media Coalition, which was formed in July 2017, that lent its support to the fight against galamsey”, he said.
He said: “As I have said on countless occasions, the battle we launched was not against mining, it would be unrealistic for anyone to suggest that there should be no mining in Ghana. The Almighty, having blessed us with all these precious minerals, must surely be in agreement that we would find ways to use them to develop our country, and for the benefit of our communities.
“However, taking the minerals out should not lead to the destruction of our water bodies and forests, or endanger the sustainable existence of our country. What is more, it was obvious to all that the small-scale mining, that had always taken place in our communities, had been transformed into something unrecognisable in our history by the introduction of the monster machinery that dug up riverbeds and turned serene streams into ugly, toxic, muddy, frothy ponds. It was no longer small-scale mining, and it certainly was no longer local community mining, when we saw the influx of foreigners into the most rural, isolated and densest of forests. It was no longer local community mining when rivers, hitherto, considered as sacred, were being abused and polluted.
“We started with the banning of all small-scale mining, and, after about a year of the campaign, we made some progress as some rivers showed signs of coming back to life. The University of Mines and Technology at Tarkwa took on the role of training local people in sustainable mining and by the time the ban on all small-scale mining was lifted last year, about four thousand (4,000) had received the training.
“This Honourable House also did its part by amending the Mining Act to raise the penalties for illegal mining, and prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in any way in small-scale mining. The nation is grateful for the intervention of Parliament”, the President noted.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee Against Illegal Mining, the President said, has been working “hard”, and has had “some successes”.
“Under the auspices of this Committee, the Ministry of Local Government has formulated, and is implementing, the Alternative Livelihood Programme in thirty-five (35) severely affected “galamsey” Districts across the country.
“Last year, five hundred (500) youth, mainly engaged in illegal mining, were trained and graduated in vocational and technical skills from Community Development Vocational and Technical Institutions. They have been provided with start-up tools and equipment. An additional six hundred and seven (607) youth are currently undergoing similar training, two hundred and forty (240) of whom are in the Community Development Institutions, whilst three hundred and sixty-seven (367) are attached to Master Craftsmen through apprenticeship at the community level.
“Operation Vanguard has been largely successful, even though problems still remain. Mining with impunity on water bodies and in forest reserves has declined. More than four thousand (4,000) miners have received training in sustainable mining. The number of individuals, dying in collapsed mining tunnels and pits in the few unauthorised locations left, has reduced by more than ninety percent (90%). Operation Vanguard has been particularly effective in helping to restore the order which has permitted the reopening of the famous Obuasi mine of Anglogold Ashanti.
“The Community Mining Programme has been well received by the population, and young men and women, who did not have the resources to acquire concessions and excavators and other mining inputs, and, therefore, had to do ‘galamsey’, have moved into legal community mining.
“Now, more than twenty-thousand (20,000) individuals are earning their incomes legitimately in the community mines in Akrofuom, Atwima Nwabiagya, Atwima Mponua, Adansi North, Amansie Central, Wassa Amenfi East and Wa East Districts. Since the introduction of the Community Mining Programme, there have been no deaths due to the collapse of tunnels and pits.
“The Inter-Ministerial Committee, along with Operation Vanguard, were determined to disrupt galamsey activities, by confiscating equipment that were employed in these activities. In this regard, 12,000 “changfan” machines that go on the river and scoop up the riverbed were seized and destroyed on site. Some excavators were also seized, and a number of them have gone missing. The Police have arrested and charged some of the alleged culprits, and investigations are ongoing. No one involved will be shielded, no matter what their positions or political colours are”, he added.