The fight to end galamsey and the ban on small scale mining
Following several media campaigns against activities and effects of small scale and illegal mining, President Akufo-Addo in his inaugural speech on January 7, 2017 promised to sanitise the mining sector.
In the same month of January the government of Ghana placed what will be a two year ban on small scale mining which’s effects was threatening the environment and water bodies.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee and the president's readiness to risk it all
In March 2017, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) headed by the Minister of Environment Science and Technology, Prof. Frimpong Boateng was commissioned to oversee the implementation of the ban on all forms of small scale mining and to also map out and implement plans for the lifting of the ban.
Prsesident Akufo-Addo during the inauguration of the IMCIM announced that he was ready to put his presidency on the line to see to an end to the menace of illegal mining.
The media crusade continued
On April 4, 2017, some major media organisations in the country came together to form the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining. Led by the Managing Director of the Graphic Communication Group Limited, Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey the group's aim was to pressure government into finding a lasting solution to the galamsey menace.
Following pressure from the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, the president launched a Military Police Joint Task Force dubbed Operation Vanguard. The force was tasked to stop activities of galamseyers in the three most galamsey ravaged regions in the country. Three Forward Operating Bases were established in those regions namely Ashanti, Eastern and Western Regions.
In October 2017, the ban on small scale mining was extended by government.
After 5 months, the Public Relations officer Operation Vanguard, Squadron Leader Oman Agyei announced that 75% of the forces work had been completed.
Arrest of the galamsey queen
On may 4, 2018 Aisha Huang and four other Chinese nationals were arrested for engaging in illegal mining at Bepotenteng in the Amansie District. Revelations about the illegal mining activities of earned her a tag as the “galamsey queen.”
In later months Aisha Huang was deported without facing prosecution. Her deportation according to government was because she had been living in Ghana with forged documents.
Senior Minister, Nana Yaw Osafo Marfo defending government’s decision to deport the “galamsey queen” without prosecuting her said the prosecution of Aisha Huang would not have been in the interest of Ghana even though she was accused of breaking laws of the country.
In contrast however, President Akufo-Addo when he was asked to speak on the issue by a Ghanaian in Colorado (USA), admitted that government’s decision to deport Aisha Huang instead subjecting her to the laws of the country was a mistake on the part of government.
Roadmap to lift ban
On August 16, 2018 government through the IMCIM announced a roadmap for towards the lifting of the ban on small scale mining.
In November the IMCIM begun vetting of small scale miners to pave the way for the regularisation of small scale mining.
In December 2018, the ban on small scale mining was finally lifted. Whilst small scale mining became legal at this point, “galamsey” under the law still remained illegal.
Galamsey fight tainted with scandals?
At various times issues on the credibility on the fight against galamsey were raised by several persons. Some of the issues raised involved bribery allegations against some officials.
In what was a very damning expose, ace investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye team in March 2019, released a video in which some officials were seen on tape taking bribes to permit illegal mining activities.
One of the officials seen in the video was Secretary to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), Mr. Charles Cromwell Bissiw, taking cash amounting to GH¢35,000 in three meetings through one Andy Owusu, a connection man, to circumvent the process to renew the mining license of a mining company.
The excavators: missing, stolen or sold off?
In January 2020, another scandal surrounding the work of the IMCIM was revealed. Chairman of the committee, Prof Frimpong Boateng declared that the whereabouts of most of the excavators seized at the peak of the fight against galamsey could not be accounted for.
After the revelation by the Minister of Environment, a suspended Regional Vice Chair of the ruling NPP, Mr Horace Ekow Ewusi and six other persons were arrested.
The Arrest Mr Ewusi who was tasked to transport the seized excavators to designated destinations for safekeeping, came on the back of a report made to the CID by the Chairman of the IMCIM, Prof Frimpong Boateng.
Subsequent to his arrest and bail for allegedly selling off some of the excavators, Mr Ekow Ewusi wrote to the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department to investigate the actual whereabouts of the excavators and other items seized by the IMCIM.
He denied any wrongdoings saying, contrary to the figure of 500 excavators he had only 254 entrusted excavators under his care. Out of the number, he said he released a hundred of the excavators on the strict orders of the Chairman of the IMCIM, Prof Frimpong Boateng.
Whilst Ghanaians seem to have it difficult in assessing the success of the fight against illegal mining in the last three years, several questions still remain without answers. And until specific answers are given, a shadow remains casted over the galamsey fight.