Monday, 25 June 2018

Ghana's Small-Scale Gold Miners Must Be Creative - And Look For Other Business Opportunities

Truly great leaders always turn disasters into golden opportunities for starting afresh. In that sense, the leaders of the Association of Small-Scale Gold Miners, are doing a great disservice to members of that shady body,  "...full of pathological liars and crooks, Kofi." to quote an old wag I know.


Why does one agree with those who say that the vast majority of small-scale gold miners are crooks, you might wonder, dear reader? Simple. Virtually all of them obtained their permits and concessions by bribing their way through the processes of the regulatory bodies overseeing that sector. A forensic audit conducted by reputable compliance organisations - and including honest and principled media professionals -  into how they obtained their concessions and sundry permits, will bear one out eloquently.  No question. And, as it happens, few journalists in the Ghana of today, know small-scale gold miners better than one does.


But I digress. There are three main opportunities that await small-scale gold miners: The first, is that due to the creative thinking of President Akufo-Addo, if small-scale gold miners have the nous and gumption, they can pay off any outstanding loans they claim are owed by them to their banks. How? Simple. By persuading companies managing  long-term funds in the insurance and pension industries, to repay those banks on their behalf - and then go on to fund groups made up of 100 gold miners each, to go into the growing of trees in massive new agro-forestry plantations. Ditto large  organic farms using ecological agricultural methods to  grow cash crops such as shea, cashew, cola nuts, coconuts and avocados, for example, for both domestic and export  markets.


The third great opportunity awaiting  small-scale gold miners, is that they can borrow from those selfsame long-term funds held by insurance and pension companies  in Ghana,  to enable them organise themselves into large gold mining companies, and partner the government of Zimbabwe to mine that sister nation's massive mineral deposits. Better that, than allow pension funds managed by companies owned by apparently respectable tycoons - but who in reality might be, or might not be,  diverting those monies for their own projects - to mismanage and dissipate such funds.


If they have any sense in their thick-blockheads, they must quickly disabuse their minds of any fanciful ideas about bribing slippery politicians to  enable them return to mining their 25-acre small-scale concessions with excavators. It won't happen. Full stop. At least not in the Atewa Range - where a number of greedy morons in the John Dramani Mahama era who thought they were teaching me a lesson, literally forced Minerals Commission officials to designate land in the heavily forested off-reserve slopes of the Atewa Forest Reserve belonging to the P. E.Thompson Estate (land that is part of an area designated  a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), incredibly) as small-scale concessions. Amazing.


No government official or political appointee, is going to take our privately-owned 14-square mile freehold forestland, which has been in our family since 1921 from the British colonial era, to give to any other private Ghanaian citizen (or Chinese mining company for that matter) to mine in. Period. It won't happen. And that is a promise not a threat. Protecting the interests of future generations is in our genes.


Finally, for their own sake, I am reproducing an open letter I once wrote and posted publicly online,  to the deputy minister for lands and natural resources, Hon. Barbara Oteng Gaisie - so  those sodden small-scale gold miners understand clearly that some of us know them like the back of our hands. They can't fool us. Ever. Let them look for other business opportunities in different sectors of our national economy. Hmmm, Oman Ghana - eyeasem o: asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa.


Please read on:



"An Open Letter To The Hon. Barbara Oteng-Gaisie - Ghana's Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources


By Kofi Thompson     


 Dear Honourable Barbara Oteng-Gaisie,


I shall go straight to the point. The auditing of all concessions given out to small-scale gold miners must be transparent and the results made public asap. Above all, small-scale gold mining in Ghana must be artisanal in nature - and done without the use of excavators and other heavy earthmoving equipment. Simply put, the use of excavators and other heavy earthmoving equipment by small-scale gold miners must be banned. Permanently. Full stop. Haaba.


For your information, in the view of the vast majority of ordinary people in Ghana concerned about the poisoning of soils, streams, rivers and groundwater sources across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside, by gold miners, any politician pandering to the small-scale gold mining lobby is in effect betraying President Akufo-Addo - whom, uniquely amongst our nation's mostly selfish and hard-of-hearing political class understands clearly, the importance, in an era of global warming, of protecting what is left of our nation's natural heritage: so that at the very least future generations of our people will also be able to enjoy some of the many benefits of the bounties of Mother Nature, presently enjoyed by today's generation of Ghanaians.


Hon. Barbara Oteng-Gyasie, just as by definition there is no such thing as a virtuous and honest prostitute; by definition there is also no such thing as an honest small-scale gold miner in this country. We are also told by bush-telegraph sources that armed robbery is apparently a very lucrative business for those who engage in it. However, as you are doubtless aware, society rightly frowns on it: and applauds when the police arrest armed robbers terrorising law-abiding citizens.


Yet, the plain truth is that the crimes of armed robbers pale into insignificance, when compared to the many crimes against humanity committed by Ghana's small-scale gold miners (both legally registered ones and the galamsayers they routinely use by stealth to escape paying for the reclamation of their exhausted concessions).


The fact of the matter is that errant small-scale gold miners and the galasayers their unpardonable irresponsibility spawns, are literally robbing future generations of our people, of their right to enjoy the manifold benefits of the UN SDGs too, when the time comes for them to inherit their birthright: the landmass and continental shelf off our shoreline that make up the soverign territory of the Leviathan that is the Ghanaian nation-state.


Hon. Barbara Oteng-Gyasie, has it never occured to a highly-intelligent person such as your good self that at a time when global climate change is impacting this country so negatively, Mother Ghana will be doomed - as sure as day follows night - and have no future at all, if obtuse politicians in President Akufo-Addo's Ghana continue to fail to recognise that we are better off leaving the gold in forest reserves and other ecologically sensitive areas untouched, in the ground? Ebeeii.


It simply does not make sense to allow the remainder of our country's forests to be destroyed, and streams, rivers, groundwater sources and soils poisoned too, just so that a few wealthy, ruthless, greedy and politically well-connected entrepreneurs (who clearly are so selfish they do not care one jot about the effect of their actions on their fellow humans and on the natural environment), can grow even wealthier and send their net worth into stratospheric heights.


You apparently appealed to small-scale gold miners recently, whiles feting widows and other vulnerable people at Aboso, in your Huni-Valley residence, to be patient because they will soon be allowed to resume their mining operations, once audits of their concessions are conducted - presumably by the selfsame mostly-compromised officials of the regulatory bodies who have been in the deep pockets of gold miners for decades: enabling them thwart attempts by committed environmentalists across Ghana to get them to obey all the rules and regulations governing gold mining in this country.


Since Parliament has never once ratified any gold mining agreements/licences before in the entire history of the 4th Republic, some of us are prepared to sue shortsighted politicians (in their personal capacity) who allow our forest reserves to be sacrificed on the alter of greed in the law courts - for personally (through their actions and egregious inactions) endangering the well-being of future generations in a nation committed to the attainment of all the UN SDGs by 2030: and led by a wise and honest president prepared to even sacrifice his presidency if that is what it takes to protect what is left of Ghana's natural heritage.


So don't joke with your position in his regime. Be wise. Finally, the question is: Can we not anchor our tourism industry on the remainder of our natural heritage, and, like Thailand, earn trillions of Ghana cedis annually - creating wealth that stays in Ghana and jobs galore for millions of our young people nationwide? It is called sustainable development. Food for thought for you and your colleague ministers - for that is the surest way to create a just and all-inclusive society in the Ghana beyond aid that we all seek and want to bring about. Please note that as a people we will never get to the Ghana beyond aid we seek if we allow a powerful few with greedy ambitions (to paraphrase the great Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah) to destroy our forests. That is for sure.


Yours in the service of Mother Ghana,


Kofi."
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