The members of the National House of Chiefs gasped in awe after viewing the spate of destruction illegal mining of gold has had on the country’s forest reserve and river bodies.
At a joint meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Commission, the Water Resource Commission and the Forestry Commission on Thursday, January 25, 2024, in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, a PowerPoint presentation brought to the attention of the paramount chiefs, dangers that confront the country.
The meeting was specifically held to solicit the views of traditional authorities for the effective fight against the menace.
The Executive Director of the EPA, Mr Kwabena Kokofu in his address to the House appreciated the positive impact of mining on the country but did not overlook its negative reality as he sought direction from the chiefs.
According to him, the ravages done to the country by irresponsible mining spring from the failure to fully regulate the extraction industry.
“We do know that governments upon governments have taken steps over the years to initiate several policies and programmes in an attempt to curb illegal mining activities and to prevent degradation and pollution including the use of the military and other security apparatus to fight against the menace but we seem not to be winning the war as we so desire.
“This encounter is to solicit the wisdom from Nananom, the custodians of our lands. Give us what it takes to help us as state institutions to deliver on what we have targeted.”
Ravages Of Illegal Mining
The PowerPoint presentation by the Deputy Operations Manager of the Agency, Ing Ransford Sakyi, showed 14 of the 16 regions are battling with illegal mining.
The regions include Ashanti, Western, Western North, Eastern, Central, Ahafo, Bono, Bono East, Savannah, Upper West, Upper East, Northern and Oti regions.
He indicated that until recently, the Oti region was devoid of the menace and fears it might spread further to other towns from Worawora if draconian measures are not taken.
Meanwhile, he noted that river bodies including Pra, Offin, Birim, Oda, Offin and Ankobra have lost their colourless nature.
The presentation brought to light, the rapidly depleting forest cover of the country mostly since 2017. Among the most affected forest reserves are Sutri and Apamprama.
Cost Of Water Treatment Borne By Citizens
In his submission, the Water Resource Commission’s representative at the event said the cost of water treatment has gone up due to high turbidity levels.
He noted that these costs are in the long run borne by citizens.
Under normal circumstances, he noted that turbidity levels range between 0-15 Nephelometric. However, some rivers measure over 3,000 which tend to require a lot of alum and other treating products.
According to him, the Oda water treatment plant measures 3,000 Nephelometric, the Osino treatment plant measures 500 Nephelometric, Akim Oda 1,000, Bonsa 1,500, Tanoso 78, Abesim 92 and Berekum 92 Nephelometric.
Challenge In Fight
As part of his presentation, Ing Sakyi pointed to interference by political leaders, traditional authorities and other authorities in their mandate against the menace.
He also mentioned institutional weakness, lack of law enforcement, unemployment, corruption, and prevailing gold prices for the prevalence of the illegality.
Ing Sakyi called on Nananom to as a matter of urgency impress on political leaders to include in the various manifestoes for 2024, practical steps with timelines to stamp out galamsey in the country.
The President of the House, Nana Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi expressed awe at the scenes and ordered copies of the slides to be distributed among members of the House for their sub-areas.
“I am personally ashamed. I have always been thinking I have been fighting galamsey. I’m devastated.”
He thus urged the chiefs to minimize the blame game and give out means the menace can be eradicated.
Among suggestions, the traditional authorities proposed constitutionally reposing adequate powers in chiefs to summon persons who troop in to mine in their lands and stop them.
They also suggested their involvement in the issuance of mining permits and licenses.