Environment Minister Mahama Ayariga has vowed to put pressure on law enforcement agencies to clamp down on illegal mining (galamsey), which is responsible for causing an irreparable damage to the environment.
The Minister was confident that no matter how widespread the problem is, galamsey can be tackled through ‘simple’ law enforcement.
Government was at the end of angry reactions on Joy FM Super Morning Show Friday after regional correspondents reported a brazen destruction of natural resources, especially water bodies.
In the Western region, Kwaku Owusu Peprah revealed his frustrations at what he has observed as government’s weak-willed response to reports of the illegality.
“I am getting tired of reporting about galamsey,” he said and pointed to destruction on the Ankobra and Pra rivers in the full glare of the public.
“Everywhere you go, there is galamsey,” he said.
According to him, soldiers who were stationed in the gold-rich Wassa area were “recalled to base” by highly placed persons in the corridors of power.
The reporter recounted his tour to areas affected by galamsey with the then Environment Minister Oteng Adjei three years ago, which ended with Minister describing the menace as an “organised crime”.
He referred to comments by President John Mahama who told District Chief Executives that their performance targets included fighting the menace.
Three years after government set up an inter-ministerial taskforce to tackle the problem, Mr Peprah believes government has not demonstrated enough discipline to push through the fight.
The situation is no different in the Upper East Region where Joy News’s Albert Sore reported of an ensuing struggle in Nabdam between the locals and persons believed to be Chinese over a mining concession.
He said the foreigners are fighting off the locals for unauthorized mining activities within their concessions. In areas like Talensi, children skip school to join adults mine gold he said.
According to him, an NGO had to intervene by opting to pay school fees so children can focus on their education.
Callers into the show expressed frustration at what they believe is government’s inability to deal with the menace with one of them close to tears.
“I understand the anger people are expressing,” Mahama Ayariga said and admitted that more needs to be done about the problem. He suggested that government’s resort to using “brute military force” has not solved the problem.
“When a problem is so widespread the way this one is, you have to find systematic approaches in dealing with it,” he noted.
Mr Ayarigah explained licensing illegal miners to operate lawfully could help curb the destruction of natural resources.
The Minister noted that some leaders in communities that have discovered mineral deposits are resisting the Forestry Commission and Minerals Commission directive not to mine.
He noted that mining cannot be done in forest reserves without a license and cannot be done under any circumstance in water bodies.
But community leaders sometimes disregard this regulation claiming that once they have discovered minerals they must have the right to mine it.
“It becomes a simple question of a crime being committed by sometimes the whole community…and it is a matter of law enforcement” he stressed.
“Everyone who is angry about the situation must help us to exert the pressures on law enforcement on the ground to disregard these authorities at the lower levels and simply enforce the law.”
“We have some case where the law enforcement officers go and they themselves become complicit. You send them to go and enforce the law and they go and the temptation of getting gold forces them to become complicit,” the minister expressed frustration.