By Maxwell Nkansah
Some illegal miners have, in a self-filmed video, mocked President Nana Akufo-Addo’s resolve to stop their operations (galamsey), teasing amidst laughter: “The job goes on.”
The men, who filmed an excavator moving earth onto a slanted conveyor platform with two men seated at the edge washing the dirt off, said that even if their equipment were seized from them, they would use their bare hands to dig for gold.
“You can’t stop the job,” they told the president, adding: “We make GHS500 a day; which job in Ghana pays that much per day?”
President Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, 16 October 2022, assured Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II that he will eradicate illegal small-scale mining (galamsey).
Speaking at the Manyhia palace in Kumasi at the beginning of his four-day official visit to the Ashanti Region, the president said his government will make sure galamsey is eradicated.
In his view, no government has been more averse to galamsey and shown commitment to its fight than his administration.
At a recent meeting with some chiefs and local government authorities on the matter at the same Manhyia palace, the president said he is not against mining Ghana’s mineral resources but will not accept the prevailing situation whereby it is done recklessly by illegal small-scale miners through which the environment is being decimated.
The meeting took place on Wednesday, 5 October 2022, at which Mr Akufo-Addo said: “We are not against mining, but we cannot accept mining in a manner that risks destroying our country.”
“Our nation has always been a mining nation. Indeed, in the 15th century, when the first Europeans, the Portuguese, came to our shores, they called the first European-influenced town, El Mina, meaning ‘the mine’ in Portuguese, because, from their ships, as they approached our shores, that is the activity they saw our people engaged in. It is not surprising that, in colonial times, we were called the Gold Coast.”
He, thus, asked all Ghanaians to join hands with him in the fight against illegal mining, in order to bring an end to the devastation of the Ghanaian landscape and the pollution of our water bodies.
“We have to win that fight to keep our environment clean, and protect our heritage for our descendants, as you did in the past,” he added.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “it is obvious that, if we are to win the fight, you and I [chiefs] have to take the lead to collaborate closely to do so. That is why I am here today.”
He noted 80% of the lands of Ghana continue to be under the custody of chiefs while the president, per the 1992 Constitution, holds the remainder in trust for the people of Ghana.
What this means, he said, is that, ultimately, the welfare of the state of the lands is the joint responsibility of chiefs and the President, although, by statute, the minerals in the soil belong to the President in trust for the people.
“Historically, we discharged that responsibility well. Even though, for centuries, we have been a mining nation, mining did not pose a threat to the health of our environment and water bodies.
The rules that you put in place for mining ensured that the sanctity of our lands remained intact, and our water bodies remained unpolluted. Tragically, in the modern era, that is no longer the case. And that is why I have come to you today to talk about how, together, we can repair this dramatic situation,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that, since he took office on the 7th of January 2017, he has made it a central feature of his presidency to lead in the efforts to rid the country of the menace of galamsey, with a firm commitment made in his inaugural speech on the matter.
“It has not been easy, it has not been popular, and we have not got the immediate results that I was looking for. Indeed, in the last elections of 2020, my stance on the issue cost my party and me significant losses in the mining communities. It turned out that my statement that I was putting my presidency on the line in the fight against galamsey was neither bombast nor recklessness. It was the simple truth,” he said.
The President continued, “We have tried many initiatives, including that of the Community Mining Scheme, and the establishment of a new legal regime for dealing with the perpetrators of this phenomenon, which has imposed severe sanctions on those, Ghanaians and foreigners, convicted of illegal mining. Still, we have not won the fight.”
In seeking further assistance from the chiefs in addressing the galamsey menace, he noted that taking partisan political interests out of the fight against galamsey is one way forward.
“It can only succeed if it is a truly national battle, which no one seeks to exploit for political gain, as we saw in the last election. The progress of our country depends on all of us, all citizens of Ghana, all Fellow Ghanaians, pulling together to defeat this existential threat to our future,” he added.