Saturday, 6 May 2017

To Protect The Welfare And Well-being Of Present And Future Generations Let Us Ban All Small-Scale And Medium-Scale Gold Mining In Ghana

As someone involved in fighting illegal loggers and illegal gold miners at Akyem Juaso, in the Akyem Abuakwa traditional area since the 1990s, I always dreaded the New Patriotic Party (NPP) ever coming to power again, prior to the December 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

This was particularly so because one was acutely aware of the power and influence wielded in the NPP by Bernard Antwi-Boasiako, who years ago hid behind claims that he was operating  a mining services company, to cloak the illegal gold mining activities that made him a very wealthy man.

However, having seen the facts on the ground since the NPP came to power again on 7th January, 2017 -  when the minister for lands and natural resources, Hon John Peter Amewu, immediately took on the criminal syndicates behind illegal gold mining countrywide - today, this blog now backs the presidency of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the hilt. 100 percent. Big time.

I have no doubt that there are quite a few like me, who even though loathe the party he leads, will agree with me that President  Akufo-Addo has proven beyond doubt that he is a great leader - simply  by taking a principled stand against the destruction of what is left of our nation's natural heritage: and vowing to halt it even at the risk of losing votes in future elections.

He has also shown that he actually cares about the welfare of both present and future generations of our people by speaking out boldly against illegal gold mining. For that reason, one prays daily for God's protection and blessing for President Akufo-Addo.

The point however needs to be made that all small-scale and medium-scale gold mining must be banned in Ghana - to protect what is left of our nation's natural environment. Nothing else will suffice.

Thailand's tourism sector raked in  over U.S.$40 billion in 2016 -  from over 30 million visitors. Could Ghana not  also build  a lucrative tourism sector anchored on what is left of our nation's natural heritage - and create millions of jobs and wealth that could add as much as U.S.$10 billion annually to our GDP?

So why should society tolerate destructive open cast gold mining by so-called small-scale gold mining companies that seldom follow laid down regulations, in any case - and eventually lose what is left of our nation's natural heritage that could create local green economic pillars across the nation as investments in community-based ecotourism initiatives thrive?

The plain truth about the small-scale  sub-sector of our national economy's gold industry is that it is run mostly by ruthless and thoroughly dishonest crooks mainly for the enrichment-by-stealth of super-crooks-in-high-places. That is a fact.

In fact there is virtually not a single legally registered company in that categoriy that either has the wherewithal or technical expertise to properly restore degraded land anywhere in Ghana. So why tolerate them - especially when they always secure their advantages by bribery and egregious corruption?

When they exhaust the gold deposits in their concessions, instead of restoring degraded mined-out land scientifically, invariably,  they simply resort to  paying out  monies to Chiefs and local people - ostensibly to fill their open pits for them by communal labour.

It is a strategy of grand  deception they employ wherever they mine gold   -  a dishonest scheme dreamt up by the rogues in their midst  to enable them dodge their legal obligations:  and  have a ready-made excuse if questioned by the authorities and asked to explain why open pits were left unfilled and degraded  land not properly restored. Scandalous.

Furtheremore, no independent observer who visits any gold concession allocated to small-scale or medium-scale gold mining companies anywhere in this country, will come away with an impression of their operations, other than one that raises  alarm and concern for the future of our nation in their mind: by the devastation of the natural environment that he or she will witness there. Monstrous. And, abominable.

Moreover, not a single legally registered small-scale or medium-scale gold mining company in Ghana is run in accordance with corporate good governance principles. Far from it. They are all socially and evironmentally irresponsible - and regularly evade taxes on top of that. That is also a  fact.

And not even one of those companies will emerge unscathed if they were subjected to close scrutiny - of their operations - by honest and principled officials from the Minerals Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Water Resources Commission.

If their operations are inspected by officials from the  regulatory bodies who do not accept bribes and and always work diligently to ensure compliance by gold mining companies of all the laws and regulations governing  gold mining in Ghana, they will all be closed down immediately - for egregious infractions of the Mining Act and endangering public health: by poisoning soils, streams, rivers and groundwater sources.

The cost to society of the many ills of surface gold mining in this country is much, much too high for Ghanaian society to continue having to go on paying - without thought leaders questioning what so obviously poses an existential threat to our homeland Ghana: and has such a negative impact on its people's well-being and quality of life.

We cannot possibly allow the future of our country to be sacrificed on the alter of unfathomable greed - because a few thousand selfish and lawless individuals want to be wealthy at all costs at society's expense. No. No. No.

To secure the welfare and well-being of present and future generations of our people, perforce, we must ban surface gold mining by all small-scale and meduim-scale companies throughout  Ghana. Full stop. Period. Haaba.

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