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Gold miners in Ghana must no longer be allowed to destroy forests

Wed, 17 Feb 2016 Source: Thompson, Kofi

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And Pollute Soils, Streams, Rivers And Other Water Bodies

By Kofi Thompson

The negative environmental impacts of the activities of illegal gold

miners have now become pretty obvious to most Ghanaians.

The question is: Should we allow illegal gold miners to continue

undermining our quality of life - and that of future generations - at

such a rapid rate and with such impunity?

Furthermore, why are so many of our nation's politicians and political

parties strangely silent about that troubling monstrosity spanning the

entire country?

Is it because some of the most powerful amongst of them are beholden

to the wealthy criminal syndicates behind the illegal gold mining and

illegal logging now going on in our country - as many in Ghana

allege?

As forests containing their headwaters are severely degraded, scores

of streams and rivers across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside,

are drying up - causing severe shortages of treated drinking water in

many towns and cities: as reservoirs of water treatment plants fall to

dangerously low levels, seldom seen before.

Clearly, it no longer makes sense to allow those destroying the

natural environment, in their quest for gold, to continue doing so in

a nation in which the rule of law is said to prevail.

It is imperative that we live in harmony with Mother Nature - just as

our forebears did before the first Europeans set foot on our shores.

As a people, it served us well then - and will do so again, if we are

more protective of what is left of our natural heritage, going forward

into the far distant future.

Drastic measures need to be taken by the authorities to arrest the

situation. The price society is now paying for tolerating illegal gold

mining in Ghana is no longer worth paying.

It must be brought to an end before it destroys life as we know it

today. Using 32-tonne excavators is not artisanal mining - it is

mining on an industrial scale: not small-scale mining. Surely, that

ought to be self-evident by now to even obtuse officialdom?

To issue small-scale mining licenses to gold miners using excavators

is therefore unconscionable, unpardonable, unspeakable and abominable

- given the amount of environmental degradation they are causing

across Ghana.

It will be prudent to place a temporary ban on all gold mining in

Ghana - both legal and illegal - lasting for a period not less than

ninety days, within which new permits must be applied for, and

obtained, for all gold mining sites in Ghana by their operators.

In light of the massive environmental destruction, which has gone on

in illegal gold mining sites across the nation, we need to make a

fresh start - and let sanity prevail in the gold mining industry.

No new permits must be issued without physical inspection of sites by

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Minerals Commission

officials - costs of which must be borne by those applying for the

permits.

In the post-moratorium era, when legitimate gold mining operations are

allowed to resume again, no gold mining must be allowed to be carried

out anywhere in Ghana, without the new Minerals Commission/EPA mining

permits. Ever.

The tragic death of AngloGold Ashanti's public affairs manager, Mr.

John Owusu, at Obuasi, not too long ago, when he was knocked down by a

reversing company vehicle, as people scrambled to escape from violent

illegal gold miners, who caused a stampede, when they charged at

AngloGold Ashanti's employees at the company's Obuasi concession, must

not be in vain.

All gold miners in Ghana - both legal and illegal ones - who flout

such a Minerals Commission/EPA edict requiring that all gold miners

obtain new mining permits, must be prosecuted - and face mandatory

jail sentences of not less than ten years.

That will be deterrent enough, for many of those tempted to participe

in this egregious crime, against humankind.

Issued new Minerals Commission/EPA mining permits must be promptly

withdrawn from gold miners whose operations pollute streams, rivers

and other water bodies, and degrade forests that contain their

headwaters.

The quality of life of present-day Ghanaians, and that of future

generations, must not be sacrificed on the alter-of-greed-for-gold,

for the benefit of a selfish and powerful few, with greedy ambitions -

to paraphrase Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, of

blessed memory, who would never have allowed this outrage to occur,

were he in power today.

And neither would a present-day Convention People's Party (CPP)

government allow it either, if it was in power now, incidentally.

Those engaged in illegal gold mining simply don't care about the

effect of their actions on their fellow humans and on the natural

environment. We must therefore not pity them either when the long arm

of the law finally catches up with them - for they are gradually

destroying our homeland Ghana: with their eyes fully open.

Enough is enough. Our natural heritage must not be allowed to be

destroyed just so that a few callous, ruthless and unethical

businesspeople, putting profit ahead of the common good, and the

welfare of millions of Ghanaians, can send their personal net worth to

stratospheric heights - by buying land and mining gold illegally at

unauthorised areas: and funding their operations with proceeds from

the sale of bush-cut lumber from illegal logging.

At a time of global climate change, illegal gold miners must not be

given free rein to threaten the sources of our nation's treated

drinking water supplies, pollute soils, streams, rivers and other

water bodies with heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals, and degrade

forests in Ghana on top of all that, with total impunity. That is

simply intolerable.

It must be halted by officialdom. Now. Not tomorrow - when it will be

way too late, to save us from a water-distressed, apocalyptic future:

in a barren and unpleasant land full of never-ending misery and untold

hardship. We can only save ourselves from such a bleak future, today,

by preventing illegal gold miners

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

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