Opinions Tue, 11 Jun 2013

Close down support services companies serving small-scale gold miners

For nearly two decades now, I have participated in the dangerous and lonely fight against the rape of Mother Nature, in what is one of the most beautiful places on the surface of the planet Earth - the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest.

In the process, I, like others involved in that war, have made many enemies - many of whom are super-wealthy criminals, who do not care one jot about the effect of their actions, on their fellow humans and the natural environment.

So, more than most, I actually know what it entails protecting Mother Nature from wealthy and powerful individuals, bent on destroying what has taken millions of years to evolve, in their quest for gold.

My family owns a total freehold landholding of some 14 square miles, in the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest - which is constantly under threat from hunters, illegal loggers and illegal gold miners.

Being at the sharp end, one therefore, approves of the ongoing battle to halt illegal gold miners and illegal loggers from destroying what is left of Ghana's natural heritage.

Over the years, I have often despaired at the complacency of much of officialdom - and been enraged when I have come across corrupt officials working for the regulatory bodies that are supposed to prosecute illegal loggers and gold miners, but who rather choose to aid them escape punishment instead.

At age 60, I am glad to have lived long enough, to have seen for the very first time, the Ghanaian nation-state actually taking determined and sustained action, to halt the rape and poisoning of vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside, by the greedy and selfish criminals engaged in illegal gold mining and illegal logging.

President Mahama deserves the respect and gratitude of all Ghanaians, for this determined fight by the Ghanaian nation-state, to halt the rape of the Ghanaian countryside by illegal gold miners and illegal loggers.

Clearly, the powerful vested interests that profit from illegal logging and illegal gold mining will fight back.

Our political class must, therefore, unite, and ensure that a bill is brought quickly before Parliament, and passed into law, which will make it mandatory for all equipment - including chainsaws; the trucks used to cart chainsaw lumber; as well as the excavators, vehicles and other accoutrements - used in illegal logging and illegal gold mining, to be seized and forfeited to the state.

Additionally, all permits and licenses (including work permits for foreigners) issued to mining support services companies servicing small-scale mining companies must be revoked and withdrawn.

It has become obvious that registering as a mining support services company, is the new ruse being used by the wealthiest and most powerful amongst the criminal syndicates behind most of the illegal gold mining that goes on across the country, to provide legal cover for their crimes against humanity.

Small-scale gold mining, by definition, is an artisanal economic activity, meant to create jobs for rural people.

It was never meant to be an economic activity, in which 32-tonne excavators that can destroy what has taken millions of years to evolve, in a matter of a few hours are deployed to mine gold to enrich a wealthy and selfish few, at the expense of the well-being of the rest of Ghanaian society.

The time has now come for swift action to be taken to close that legal loophole for wealthy criminals engaged in illegal gold mining in Ghana. A word to the wise...

Columnist: Kofi Thompson