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Justifying galamsey to protect the environment

Galamsey 3333 Large People seen on site engaging in galamsey

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 Source: Nathaniel Dwamena

In recent times, the media, social commentators and all stakeholders have contributed their quota towards the fight against indiscriminate mining activities and illegal small scale mining.

With the numerous campaigns against indiscriminate mining activities, we as a nation shall overcome this menace, and protect our environment if and only if we identify the exact cancer we are against.

Many have misunderstood illegal small scale mining and galamsey to mean the same. In Ghana, illegal small scale mining is popularly known as galamsey.

I want to emphasize in this write up that the two terms are not the same and further justify how the latter will aid in protecting our environment.

Registered mining operations are those that have been licensed by the State to mine in designated areas (not exceeding 25acres) for 3-5years (Appiah 1998, cited in The good in evil: a discourse analysis of the galamsey industry in Ghana).

Therefore any mining operation that is not registered is regarded as illegal mining, since most of such activities are on small scale basis hence, illegal small scale mining.

Galamsey, originated from the phrase “Gather and sell”. It has been an occupation for nationals/locals during the colonial era.

Galamsey was first banned by the British government in Ghana (Gold Coast), in order for the British government to gain monopoly in the mining industry during colonial times.

Galamsey has from then been regarded as an illegal activity.

The difference between illegal small scale mining and Galamsey has to do with the instruments and equipment used in their operations.

Galamsey involve the use of basic tools, hammers, shovels, pickaxes and spade to dig the grounds for precious Gold and Diamond.

However, illegal small scale mining involve the use of sophisticated tools like excavators, explosives etc.

The tools used in illegal small scale mining rapidly destroy agricultural lands, forest reserves and pollute the water bodies with no time to waste.

On the other hand, Galamsey operators may spend about 20 years or more on a 25 acre land purported for mining.

Since galamsey involves basic tools, it will take galamseyers a long time to judiciously clear a land.

This causes a low degradation rate on the environment. I am of the view that, if galamseyers are recognized by our laws and given the necessary regulations to operate, it will further preserve our environment.

This is because the PNDCL 218 does not recognize Galamsey operations in the country.

Also, judging from the kind of instrument used in galamsey and the duration it will take galamseyers to mine on 25 acres, it will reduce rapid degradation of our agricultural lands and pollution of water bodies.

Our resources must serve the needs of our generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their needs.

Indiscriminate mining activities should be identified in their distinct categories to curtail the harm caused to our environment.

The assimilative capacity allows a resource to absorb waste without change in the quality and aesthetic value and the ability of some environmental resource to regenerate itself.

Therefore, if the rate of pollution does not exceed the regeneration rate, then environmental degradation will be minimized.

Galamsey operation is the surest way to have minimum pollution in order for the environment to have enough time for regeneration.

Furthermore, I also have the view that, there have been many talks than actions in curbing indiscriminate mining in Ghana.

Article 275(6) of the constitution stipulates that: “Every mineral in its natural state in, under, or upon any land in Ghana, river, stream, water courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the President on behalf of, and in trust for the people”.

Is this to mean that every mineral you find, even on your own private land within Ghana is vested in the State? If so, then one needs permission to pick up any mineral on the ground on his own Land or property.

Yet the enforcers of the law and institutions make us perceive that no such laws exist in Ghana.

Juxtaposing the mineral acts with the Forest reserve act, 1927, let’s analyze what the Act states for offenders of the forest reserve act.

“A person who, in a forest reserve without written consent of the component forest authority,

a) Fells, uproots, logs, girdles, taps, injures by fire or otherwise damages a tree or timber

b) Makes or cultivates a farm or erects a building

c) Causes damage by negligence in felling a tree or cutting or removing timber

d) In any way obstructs the channel of river, stream, canal, or creek

e) Hunts, shoots, fishes, poisons and water or sets traps or snares

f) Subjects to a manufacturing process, collects conveys or removes a forest produce, or

g) Pastures cattle or permits any cattle to trespass Commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both the fine and the imprisonment”.

If someone picks up a dead tree for fire wood in a forest reserve, that fellow can be imprisoned or fined or both.

But if a mining company or illegal small scale miner clears a whole forest, it is business as usual and the whole nation will dedicate one week for it in our political discourse and shows.

There are laws and we must ensure their applicability.

In conclusion, indiscriminate mining and its effect on the environment must be addressed by ensuring that the polluter pays for the pollution.

That way, a land designated for mining must factor into it the cost on vegetation cover, forest reserve and environmental pollution.

I won’t champion a complete ban since banning will continue the operations of illegal mining activities in the dark. Also the enforcers of the laws and institution must be firm and fair in ensuring good regulations and save us the many talks with no actions.

Columnist: Nathaniel Dwamena
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