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Government urged to check "galamsey" operations

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Small scale miners

Government and stakeholders in the mining sector have been urged to develop a regulation to check the activities of “galamsey” miners since their operations undermine efforts to protect forests and other natural resources.

“Mining without such registration and regulation is illegal but unfortunately ‘galamsey’ is widespread in this part of the country and the earlier the authorities did something about it the better, because of the adverse effects on the health and safety of the inhabitants in the communities.”

The Rev. Robert Nelson Adayi, Chief Executive Officer of Trends Envitech Limited, an environment management and consulting firm, was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on Thursday in Accra.

He said the activities of illegal miners often caused a major environmental damage including the pollution of water bodies, depletion of forest reserves and de-vegetation, adding that they did not also conduct reclamation of trenches and pits as the mining companies do.

“Recent news items reported in sections of the media for instance indicate that there has been incessant and blatant depletion of more than 80 per cent of forest reserves in the Akyem Traditional Council and its environs and the heavy pollution of the Birim River, which has been the main source of drinking water for the people over the years, by illegal chainsaw operators and illegal miners.

“Though the communities highly appreciate the cash flow that illegal mining can bring, it is evident that these activities also bring increased levels of social and medical ills, and disrespect for the rule of law.”

He indicated that even though residents in those areas might think “galamsey” activities provide employment for the youth, the manner in which the land was being degraded and abandoned posed a more serious threat to people, especially women and children who often had to cross such degraded lands to their farms.

The Rev. Adayi appealed to the government to consider a recent call by the Okyenhene Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II to ban “galamsey” operations as an issue of national concern.

“Personally, I think “galamey” business is a criminal activity; it has no economic benefit to the nation and should be curbed immediately to prevent further destruction of lives and property,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Okyenehene announced a ban on all “galamsey” operations in Akyem Abuakwa with immediate effect.

Under the law, small-scale miners need to be registered in order to work on land to which they have legal access, and are subject to regulation by either the Environmental Protection Agency or the Ghana Minerals Commission, or both.

In Bogoso, Prestea, Mpohor, Benso, Damang and other areas where illegal miners operate, there is evidence that the precious metal is being mined with impunity.

Spread all over in most of these communities are open pits besieged by unskilled youth digging for gold to sell to prospective buyers, without a care about the dangers being created for themselves, the inhabitants and the environment as a result of their unregulated activities.

In 1989, the then government worried by the illegal mining activities, passed the PDNC Law 218 to legalise small scale mining in a bid to check ‘galamsey’ operations.

However, it did not help as illegal mining activities rather seem to be on the ascendancy, according to the 2008 Ghana Chamber of Mines report.

Source: GNA

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