The Fight against ‘Galamsey’: Another Exercise in Futility?

I have been following keenly the campaign to flush out illegal miners in the mining areas and I have been amazed with some of the discussions. Sometimes, in our effort to find solution to some of the problems that confront us, we end up creating room for people to exploit because of the haste with which we approach the problem. 

In Ghana, the way we approach ‘human’ problems with the aim of solving it is simply appalling, to say the least. We often fail to think through the problem and the intended approach or methods thoroughly to identify the best way out. In other words, we don’t define the problem properly. As a result, we are unable to permanently solve the socio-economic problems that confront us. It’s no wonder the approach we use to ‘solve’ the problem only last for a short while that’s why in no time the very problem we claimed to have ‘solved’ suddenly resurfaces again in the same or different form.

‘Galamsey’ simply means surface mining. The 'galamsey' operators have no license to engage in surface mining and therefore their activity is illegal. There are also those who have been licensed to engage in small scale mining and there are those who have no license at all but are engaged in small scale mining illegally. I am very sure it's not only the 'galamsey' operators that polluting our water bodies.

The current method being adopted to end ‘galamsey’, for me, would not bring an end to the problem. Lack of collective political will is one reason why this fight against ‘galamsey’ may not be successful. It is believed that some of these ‘galamseyers’ have some political backbone. They have political might behind their activity. The NDC also waged a war against ‘galamsey’ activities without success. They were not successful because they didn’t get political support from other political parties. There was no collective fight against ‘galamsey’ because the politician is always on the lookout for opportunities to exploit to his advantage. So while one party appears to be fighting the problem, the other is on the touchline looking for some loop holes to take advantage of. We all know what happened when efforts were being made by a particular government to get hawkers off our streets. So until there is a non-partisan approach to this problem, I can tell you without any shred of doubt that we would come back to talk about this issue some day.

Lack of job opportunities is yet another reason that can safely be attributing cause for people to engage in ‘galamsey’ while others have also taken to various activities to earn a living. I quite remember one of the big mining firms laid off about 2000 workers sometime ago because of decline in gold prices and issues relating to tax. Could it be that the chickens have come home to roost? These are people who were not stopped right at the time they were about starting their business. They have been allowed to engage in this activity for so long and have become so used to it. They make a lot of mining and live a comfortable life. Supposing these ‘galamseyers’ have been offered gainful employment which earns them something far less than they have been making from ‘galamsey’, do you think they would never be tempted to go back to ‘galamsey’? This is the guy who has tasted good money from ‘galamsey’. So, comparing the two incomes, he would always tilt towards ‘galamsey’. It is for this reason you don’t create the room in the first place.  If you feed your child with milk for so many years, it would be difficult for you to turn round and tell that same child milk is not good for him. You may be right but the child would not take you serious! This is the situation we have on our hands as far as ‘galamsey’ is concerned.

Some of these miners (‘galamseyers’) do not have the equipment such as excavators to undertake their activity. They rely on the services of people who are into renting of this equipment. The man renting the equipment is into business and does not care whatever you are going to use the equipment for so long as he can make his money. If a system has been put in place such that renters of these equipment are prohibited from renting their equipment to ‘galamseyers’, would it not have partly solved the problem? My answer is absolutely no! And here is my reason: the equipment can be hired under the pretence of using it to do something else if the person knows that he would not have access to the equipment should he say he would use it for mining. So he would have to outsmart the system. Unless of course the one renting the equipment and the one hiring it are both made liable under a certain legal directive, we should not expect an end to ‘galamsey’.

There is a ready market that buys the gold and other minerals from these ‘galamseyers’ and that  cannot be underestimated as far as ‘galamsey’ is concerned. But can we prevent the buyers from buying minerals from ‘galamseyers’? After all gold is gold and diamond is diamond irrespective of whether or not is mined legally or from ‘galamseyers’. In any case, this money comes into our economy.

Let me also talk a little about the issue of licensing. In Ghana, the frustration that comes with registering a business or getting a license to do one thing or the other comes with a lot of unbearable frustration. It’s simply annoying, emerging supping and waste of time! This does not mean we should flout the law. Unfortunately, it creates room for people to break the law.
But one thing we have never been told in this clamp down on ‘galamseyers’ is that is it only the ‘galamseyers’ who are responsible for polluting our water bodies or the licensed miners are also doing the same thing? Is it the case that once you have the license you have the right to pollute our water bodies?

Come to think of it, those ‘galamseyers’ who are smart may have long withdrawn from the site in order not to be caught and would return eventually when the noise about their activity in the media capsized. Again, those who have been mandated and equipped with motorbikes to monitor these mining sites may be bribed by ‘galamsey’ers if they are not paid well or not resourced well. In some parts of the world, even the police sometimes are found supervising people to tap national oil pipelines; I mean they connived to steal government oil.

I am not in any way in support of the activities of ‘galamseyers’ especially when their activities are destroying our water bodies and farmlands. I am only of the view that the method being used to end their activity would not earn us the long term gains we desired. Sometimes people resist change simply because they are not made to understand what the change is all about. I think the best approach to dealing with the issue of ‘galamsey’ should not be that of hostility as we are seeing currently. The best approach, for me, would have been sensitization through public education with the aim of bringing these people together and help them to understand the dangers associated with their activities. Having done that, you then try to streamline their operation by issuing them with licenses and putting together a team to supervise and regulate their daily operations. The team should be composed of experts on environment, water, the police and other relevant stakeholders. These people would do regular monitoring and evaluation on the operations of these ‘galamseyers’. This is what I consider the best solution to the problem. For if you sack them, you have not achieved anything. They would find their way back there again.


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