The President’s initial response to the public’s vehement objections against the destructive ramifications of galamsey is passive and convenient. Available records show that NPP MPs have been loudest on the ills of galamsey and yet seem disempowered in the fight against the menace. It is unclear and worrying whether the Executive and Legislative arms will act decisively on galamsey and halt the devastating and near catastrophic environmental consequences.
In his party’s (NPP) 192-paged manifesto for the 2016 General elections, is a thin 3-paragraph statement of intent on small-scale mining (page 96). It reads:
“It is NPP’s view that the artisanal, small-scale mining sub-sector needs restructuring so that its activities can take place within guidelines set up under the appropriate regulations.
This will enable small scale miners to work and earn their livelihoods in a regulated, secure, and lawful environment.
By this process, the environment, especially our water bodies, can be protected and degraded land can be reclaimed through tree-planting and reforestation.”
Underlying the manifesto promise is a sequential thesis that the economic gains of galamsey is far more important than environmental destruction and under a friendlier regulatory environment, those involved in illicit mining will turn a new leaf and act responsibly. The paragraphs fail to admit that there are individuals like Bronzy One in galamsey who are determined and unashamed to operate in defiance of existing regulations. So the issue is not all about ignorance of regulations or high requirements for the licensing and operating of small-scale mining.
Also, the President is reported to have said that in order to solve the galamsey menace, “we need a comprehensive policy which may even involve legislation...” At best, the party and the President’s position on Galamsey appears ambiguously evasive.
A Comprehensive Policy?
What the President is calling a comprehensive policy is not clear. The Minerals and Mining Act 703 (2006), the Artisanal Mining Framework and other related blueprints are existing regulations which make clear provisions for small-scale mining. The situation at hand is one whereby a growing number of individuals have put their economic interests above environmental concerns under the pretext of employment generation and have shown demonstrable effrontery to disregard the rules. This doesn’t require an extra layer of policy. This is a matter of political will and law enforcement.
"It is not multiplication of laws which would bring sanity in any nation; it is rather the serious application of the law to go for those who matter. This is because we are enjoying some impunity in this country in which we arrest small boys, give them bail while the one who is investing in this monumental project is relaxing somewhere...we are encouraging plain illegality in this country..." - Mr. Samuel Atta Akyea, NPP-Abuakwa South, March 20 2015
Forces and Interests Involved
Galamsey may be a “complex” issue for the NPP government but not Ghana. Most galamsey operating centres are in NPP strongholds. Even the President’s own beloved Kyebi, his maternal home in the Eastern Region, is a hot spot for galamsey. Galamsey activities in Kyebi and its environs have put the Birim river at the highest risk of complete destruction. If the President cracks the whip on illegal mining, that in deed is going to be politically risky for his party. But just as the President will not sit with armed robbers and drug dealers to arrive at a comprehensive plan on acceptable conduct, in the same vein, he should not invite lawbreakers to the table for a discussion on a comprehensive plan for galamsey. We have reached a stage where the common and national interest of the sovereign state of Ghana supersedes individual interests in and gains from galamsey.
Does Parliament See Galamsey as a Problem?
“Their activities have reached epic proportions in the country due to many factors, including the influx of foreigners (Chinese) into the sector and the impunity of persons engaged in illegal small scale mining activities. These activities have had a devastating effect on the environment by destroying farmlands and polluting a large number of water bodies and thereby adversely affecting the livelihoods of the persons living in the communities where these activities take place” – Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, MP-Suame, July 9 2015
"...Galamsey is an illegal act and we cannot make a law and prescribe measurement in banning galamsey inside the law...I even think the three years minimum is too low if you consider the havoc illegal mining is doing in our countryside; polluting our water bodies, degrading our forest reserves and the countryside" * - Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, MP-Manhyia South, July 9 2015
"...the Birim River is heavily polluted as a result of galamsey activities in the area. Due to this, GWCL produces only an average of 60m3/d (0.01MGD) of water at Osino, which is woefully inadequate to serve a demand of 407m3/d (0.09MGD) for the entire coverage area. As a result, potable water supply is currently limited to Osino. Supply to Nsutam from the Bunso Water Supply System is intermittent as a result of the raw water problems. Mr. Speaker, there is the need to actively fight the menace of illegal mining." - Mr Sampson Ahi, MP-Bodi, November 26, 2014
"Mr Speaker, in my constituency and my neighbouring constituency---Adotobiri, Amansie West, Fomena and those areas, all water bodies are not endangered species. If you travel round, you cannot see one stream of water where, in your worst thirst, you can pick and drink. Every water running around, whether it is a stream or a big river, is muddy and it is because on both sides of the river bodies, are huge excavators, excavating the earth and prospecting for gold" - Mr. Joseph Osei-Owusu, NPP - Bekwai, June 5 2013
The fourth parliament (2005-January 2009) passed the Minerals and Mining Act in 2005 to regulate the activities of small-scale and large-scale mining. Section 83 of the Act states “a license for small-scale mining operation shall not be granted to a person unless that person
a. Is a citizen of Ghana,
b. Has attained the age of 18 years and
c. Is registered by the office of the Commission in an area designated under section 90(1)”
The Minerals Commission is mandated with the responsibility to regulate and implement policies related to mining, among others. But the Commission has not lived up to expectations. The Parliamentary Hansard of 12 December 2013 captures the MP for Pru East, Dr Kwabena Donkor as saying,
“The current practice where the mining sector has rightly drawn public criticism for (illegal mining) practices arises largely as (a) result of regulatory failure. And since the Minerals Commission has the statutory responsibility to regulate the sector…we should make demands for a more robust regulatory regime to protect our environment and natural resource wealth.”
We have a situation whereby the existing regulations on mining are not complied with, and the political and regulatory institutions entrusted with the power to ensure compliance have joined us in lamenting about the devastation caused by galamsey. What we have seen from Presidency and Parliament for more than 10 years is an endless conveyer belt of commentary on Galamsey with occasional "piecemeal measures" to stem the phenomenon.
This is a response to the President’s invitation to citizenship.
Ernest Armah is the Head of Research and Content Development at Odekro PMO. E: firstname.lastname@example.org