Business News of 2014-04-28

Galamsey polluting Black Volta, degrading farmlands in U/W

Illegal gold mining, popularly known as galamsey, has become one of the get-rich quick avenues of the youth in the country. Wherever there is the scent of gold or diamond, the youth flock there and get busy on the land.
They dig every available space, not caring about the farm land, buildings, dwelling places or even land reserved for any other purpose and cemeteries.
What is in the soil is what they are looking for. Their operations have left several acres across the country desolate and degraded, leaving in their wake trenches and holes which have become death-traps. Apart from the degradation of the land, there is massive pollution to water bodies.
These operators wash their suspected minerals-laden soil in the water bodies with dangerous liquids, some of which are poisonous to both humans and animals.
Here in the Upper West Region, this operation has been going on unabated. The operators have seized and destroyed the land acquired for surface mining by the Azuma Resource Limited, an Australian-based company, since 2005.
The company which acquired a large tract of land in the region has not yet started operations because of feasibility studies they are carrying out there. But their concession along the banks of the Black Volta on the Ghana-Burkina Faso boundary has now been taken over by illegal operators, some of whom are foreigners and schoolchildren who come from over the border to operate in the area.
Their operations have destroyed some portions of the land and polluted the Black Volta which is a major source of potable water and livelihood for the people in the area. The Bui Hydro electric dam which supplies treated water to most of the region is in danger of drying up.
Unfortunately, some of the foreign operators who come from Burkina Faso arrive in canoes which they ferry across the Black Volta River to engage in their nefarious activities and go back. So while their Burkina Faso side of the river is fertile, our land is being degraded and the river polluted.
The Black Volta which is the source of water for the Bui Hydro electric dam is also in danger. If nothing is done immediately about the situation and the Bui dam also goes out of operation, the current energy crises will aggravate.
Within a short time, a whole surface of land has been degraded. In contrast, the land across the river in Burkina Faso has been left untouched, may be because of their strict regulations but in our part, they operate with impunity.
According to Mr Vitus Ngaanuma, the Community Relations Manager of Azuma Resource Ltd, the company is putting up its structures awaiting clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start operations in two of the districts, namely the Nadowli-Kaleo and Wa-East. He said he was sure that once they started operations, their activities would drive away the illegal miners.
Mr Ngaanuma said their concession stretched from Wa-West to Hamle and covered a distance of about 110 kilometres in eight out of the 11 districts in the region.
These are the Wa-East and West, Nadowli-Kaleo, Jirapa, Lawra, Nandom, Daffiama/Busie/Issa and Lambussie districts. At the moment, the Community Relations Manager said most of their machinery and equipment had been brought to site for work to begin.
He gave an assurance that should they start operating, a lot of communities development would spring up as part of their social responsibilities. He, therefore, appealed to the chiefs and opinion leaders who are giving out their land to the illegal miners to put an end to it, since in the long run the land would be of no use to them.
According to Mr Ngaanuma, their operations will provide employment avenues for the youth in the area and infrastructure development such as schools, roads and hospitals.
The District Chief Executive of Nadowli-Kaleo District, Mr John Bosco Bomansaan, noted that illegal mining was causing a lot of havoc to the environment and a loss of revenue to the state.
He explained that several attempts to halt the activities had proved futile since the miners quickly escaped before the taskforce could get to the scene.
He said several calls on the people and their accomplices who come from across the neighbouring border of Burkina Faso had not been successful. So far nobody has been arrested.
The DCE said the situation had assumed a different dimension with its negative impact such as cross-border crimes and environmental degradation and expressed concern over the high spate of school drop-outs among the children. He appealed to all stakeholders to join in the fight to halt the trend.
The Upper West Regional Security Council (REGSEC) needs to wake up and call on the government for assistance to fight the menace.
The police have inadequate resources and strength to tackle the menace so the operators are having a field day. Unless the necessary interventions are made, in the not too distant future, there will be shortage of water.
Thus, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) should quickly give clearance for Azuma Resource Ltd to start operations in order to restore the situation to normalcy.