This is an attempt by TheAfricanDream.net to find out what people feel about #StopGalamseyNow by talking to Ghanaians in and out of the country.
But before that, a little background: in April 2017 Yaw Osafo Marfo; the former Finance Minister of Ghana, who is now a Senior Minister in the Ghana Government (under President Akufo-Addo) granted TheAfricanDream.net an interview at the Ghana Embassy in Washington D.C. A question of mine to the minister bordered on the galamsey issue in Ghana and that was what prompted the desire to look deeper into the #StopGalamseyNow hashtag.
If you are Ghanaian following news in Ghana and are in or out of the country then you know pretty much enough about #StopGalamseyNow, if you don’t that’s OK, you would not be alone.
Let us throw a little light on what Galamsey is according to Wikipedia: a galamsey is a local artisanal gold miner in Ghana, West Africa; such workers are known as galamseyers or orpailleurs in neighboring francophone nations. Galamseyers are people who do gold mining independent of mining companies, digging small (pits, tunnels, and sluices) and working by hand. So there you have it, now we all know, well, at least the basics of what galamsey is.
What a government official said about #StopGalamseyNow
Anyway during my interview with Yaw Osafo Marfo, the Hon. Minister said Galamsay has been around since his youthful days and the regulation has been that it has to be done about 100 yards from a water bed or water bodies. Recently though, the Chinese have evolved a new technology that has discovered rich deposits under water beds. This changed the dynamics of galamsey which has unfortunately affected the environment and water bodies as never before.
Now Ghanaians all over have become very concerned about the levels of pollution this new method of the Chinese is causing, both to water bodies and erstwhile virgin forests, all of which, including humans, are now suffering the negative effects of galamsey, prompting a serious call on Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo to take action to arrest the problem, and to hopefully — #StopGalamseyNow!
So, some people I talked to were of the opinion that we have arrived at this place because although there are regulations governing artisanal mining intended to prevent abuse and harm, such laws are either not enforced in Ghana or the enforcers collude with some galamseyers to turn a blind eye. This is why some people, with impunity, disregard the law. As for Aisha; the ’Galamsey Queen’ and her sex-tape intervention, well am going to leave that up to you to Google for yourself.
One major negativity that galamsey is causing to the Ghanaian hinterlands is that since the economy of those areas is agro-based, the application of crude chemicals like mercury by these galamseyers is messing up the land. Even worse is that these chemicals seep through the land into nearby water bodies. One of the persons I spoke to asked a rather poignant question: “will the Chinese government allow Ghanaians to galamsey in Shanghai or elsewhere in China?”
Trying to find the origin of the tweet
Let that sink in, the harm is done, the quest to salvage the situation has begun. Kindly allow me to bring you with me on my journey to the internet to discover the origin of the #StopGalamseyNow hashtag. I too was curious to know of its origin, I went to Twitter and begun my search. I looked hard and deep, and after close to 80 minutes of researching, I hit a stop at the tweet below, there was nothing more beyond it so I settled on the fact that this is the first tweet of the hashtag on Twitter.
Here is a quote of the tweet below:
I see this #StopGalamseyNow commercials on TV. Ba I ask ma self, how many govt officials own Galamsey pits?
— The Bearded Fellow (@piziilelee) July 4, 2014
The above tweet is from 2014, I am now writing on it in 2017 — this obviously is not a new story. Anyway, the owner of the tweet is Frank Asante, I tracked him down and we talked on the phone since I wanted to get into his head and find out what made him tweet that tweet.
“On my university bed in 2013, I tweeted #StopGalamseyNow. I was pushed by how illegal mining was destroying our country and how nothing was being done about it. Back then, I had a strong feeling the difficulty in the fight and persistence of the act was because there were some ‘faceless strongmen’ who probably owned pits in some of the mining areas” Frank told TheAfricanDream.net.
In fact, Frank was so passionate about the matter that he at the time focused his undergraduate thesis on the health effects of illegal gold mining in some four communities in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana (where Newmont Ghana Gold Limited was undertaking its exploration works). During the time, he had a personal interaction and experience with illegal mining; this was based on his visits to sites and interviewing some of the miners.
Newmont Mining Corporation is a US-based mining company in the state of Colorado. It was founded in 1916 as a diversified holding company, with active gold mines in the US, Asia, Australia, South America and Ghana being the one African country it has operated in since 2002 but begun production in 2006.
Today Frank works with the Geographic Information System (GIS) unit of the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where has had more experience with this #StopGalamseyNow issue because his department in the agency is directly involved in its monitoring.
My new friend Frank told me he has always held a strong stance against illegal mining, today however it is the source of livelihood for many, sadly. He feels We cannot look on unconcerned as we loose our water bodies and arable lands in the name of money or making a living.
“I only hope the fight against it will be in a more sustainable fashion in which there will be alternative sources of livelihood for these people [involved in the galamsey] especially the indigenes” — Frank Asante.
Frank mentioned two things in our conversation, ‘Newmont’ and ‘alternative sources of livelihood’ [for galamseyers] and that brought to mind someone I felt could weigh in on this matter — Audrey Quaye of Strategic Insurance Solutions Inc in Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Audrey Quaye feels the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources in Ghana needs to have an Audit and Enforcement Division (AED) that can monitor compliance with the Mining law. She commended the Ghana police for their role in the campaign to stop illegal mining but admitted that they are not positioned to monitor who is licensed or not, although they can assist the AED when needed.
What a Ghanaian in the US had to say
“Ghana cannot ban small-scale mining. It is allowed under the current Mining Law. What needs to happen is a total halt of all small-scale mining operations; cancellation of all small-scale mining licenses; reissue of licenses following review of each applicant’s operations; provision of mandatory training in artisanal mining techniques; and monitoring of their operations
“Use of large equipment, such as excavators, and chemicals should be banned. All foreigners engaged in small-scale mining activities in Ghana should be banned from engaging in any mining related activities which include equipment and sale of chemicals meanwhile“, Audrey said.
When TheAfricanDream.net asked her what happens to displaced galamsey workers, she suggested they could be given reparations and redeployed to engage in other development activities. She further suggested “they could be trained and engaged to undertake reforestation and reclamation of lands damaged by galamsey mining operations. Simply put: they can be trained and put to work. The children involved must be encouraged and given bursaries to attend school” according to Audrey.
So, there seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel and at the time of publication, TheAfricanDream.net discovered Ghana is going to establish a Business Reporting Bureau at which corrupt activities of staff and officers of state-owned enterprises will be monitored to ensure they are doing the right thing in an attempt to fight corruption and encourage good business practices. The hope is that this doesn’t become a nine-day-wonder.
The fight goes on to #StopGalamseyNow for Ghana. We need to go about this in a very transparent manner with time so that the nation can seriously fight corruption which president after president has failed to put a stop to.
This is not a battle only for the government, all well-meaning Ghanaians must chip in, Galamsey is just a small part of this cancer. When that is out of the way maybe the country can tackle the next hashtag, whatever it may be…
Written by Oral Ofori of TheAfricanDream.net