March 2, 2024

Galamsey, an illegal form of small-scale mining, has emerged as a pressing environmental and social issue in Ghana. This illicit mining practice involves the extraction of gold and other valuable minerals from small plots of land, often without proper licensing and environmental regulations. While the activity promises economic gains to individuals and communities, its consequences have been severe, wreaking havoc on the environment, undermining livelihoods, and posing a threat to sustainable development.

These illicit acts are being undergone at various communities enriched with minerals such as the Western North, Ashanti Region, Eastern Region, Western Region, Central Region among other regions in the country.

The unregulated use of mercury and cyanide in the mining process contaminates water bodies and soil, leading to widespread pollution. River bodies and streams are rendered unfit for drinking and typical examples are the River Ankobrah and River Prah, agriculture, and fishing, adversely affecting the health and livelihoods of communities residing nearby. Moreover, deforestation and land degradation occur as miners’ clear vast areas of vegetation and forests to access minerals, leading to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem disruption.

However, the influx of illegal miners leads to the encroachment on farmlands and displaces traditional livelihoods. This often results in land conflicts and social tensions, leading to the breakdown of community cohesion. Additionally, child labour and hazardous working conditions in galamsey sites expose young individuals to health risks and hinder their access to education, perpetuating a cycle of poverty. One should note that, even though galamsey may provide immediate economic gains for those involved, its long-term economic impact is detrimental. The depletion of natural resources, such as gold, without sustainable mining practices compromises the country’s potential for economic growth and diversification. Furthermore, illegal mining reduces government revenue from royalties and taxes, hampering investments in critical sectors like education, healthcare, and infrastructure development.

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For how long will these unscrupulous acts continue? Well the Ghanaian government under the auspices of the president, his excellency Nana Akuffo Addo has undertaken various measures to combat the Galamsey menace. These measures include interagency task forces, the deployment of security forces like the ‘Operation Vanguard” to dismantle illegal mining sites, and the revocation of mining licences of companies involved in illegal activities. Additionally, awareness campaigns and public education initiatives have been launched to sensitize citizens about the adverse effects of Galamsey.

However, several challenges hinder the successful elimination of Galamsey. Corruption and weak enforcement of mining regulations allow illegal miners to evade legal repercussions. The lure of quick profits and limited alternative livelihood options in rural areas perpetuate the cycle of Galamsey. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach that involves stringent law enforcement, community engagement, and sustainable economic development strategies.

The Galamsey menace poses significant environmental, social, and economic challenges to Ghana’s development journey. Immediate and concerted efforts are required to combat this illegal practice and due to its far-reaching consequences, there should be a collaborative effort between the government, private sector, and civil society are essential in implementing long-lasting and impactful interventions to preserve Ghana’s natural heritage, protect communities, and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

We only have one Ghana and as the indigenous cliché goes: “Adepa wo fie a oye” meaning “it is good to have something at home” or “it is right to protect what is yours,” so should we preserve “The Gold Coast”.

 

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