Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the president of the Republic of Ghana, during his inaugural address on the 7th January, 2017, urged the good people of Ghana to “recognise the danger we face by the alarming degradation of our environment and work to protect our water bodies, our forests, our lands and the oceans. We should learn and accept that we do not own the land, but hold it in trust for generations yet unborn and, therefore, have a responsibility to take good care of it and all it contains.”
This made majority of Ghanaians believe the fight against illegal mining otherwise known as ‘galamsey’ could be won, having such a determined leader.
Six months later, on 10th July, 2017, President Akufo Addo re-echoed his determination to end the galamsey menace by putting his presidency on the line in the fight. “I have said it at Cabinet level, and perhaps this is the first time I am making this public, that I am prepared to put my Presidency on the line on this matter”
Operation VANGUARD was formally launched at Burma Camp on July 30, 2017with a joint Military and Police Taskforce of 400 personnel, comprising 200 military and 200 police personnel, was formed to deal with the menace of degrading the forests and polluting the rivers and water bodies in the affected areas.
The task force was deployed to the most affected areas in the Eastern, Western and Ashanti Regions after a pre-deployment training from 19 to 26 July 2017 and launched to the Forward Operational Bases (FOBs). The ceremony was performed by a panel of Ministers forming the Inter-Ministerial Committee with the Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant General O.B Akwa and the former Inspector General of Police, Mr David Asante-Appeatu in attendance.
The team’s operations saw most mining equipment including 6000 Changfang machines and several other earth-wrecking machines set on fire. Many individuals including nationals from China, Niger, Guinea, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ghana were arrested with some facing prosecution.
A total of 838 Chanfang machines and other mining equipment being used by the illegal miners on the Offin River were seized and burnt by Operation Halt II as of August 22 as reported by the Daily Graphic newspaper on August 17, 2022.
The operations by the Operation Vanguard and Operation Halt teams may have yielded some fruitful results in the eyes of those who live outside the galamsey-affected areas, but the truth is, nothing positive emanated from it. The water bodies are still in a muddy state, forest
reserves are highly degraded and lands are destroyed as a result of the activities of illegal miners.
LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE AFFECTED AREAS
In spite of the mineral deposits in the areas, people living in these mining communities are left to rot in their predicaments, having no potable drinking water due to the muddy nature of their only source of drinking water marred by galamsey activities.
Worryingly, almost all roads leading to these mining communities are in deplorable states coupled with the messy state of health and educational infrastructure and facilities. In fact, these facilities do not commensurate with the quantum of mineral ore that is mined and transported out of these areas.
With all the aforementioned plights of the people, another problem that the defenceless people have had to grapple with is that they are compelled to live a life akin to those in the cities with the prices of goods and services as expensive as goods at the various markets and stores in the urban areas. In some cases, the retail price of a bag of cement is sold at an additional GHC2.00 to the original nationwide price due to the transport cost.
The debilitating effect of mercury and cyanide on the health of the people in the mining areas is still left unattended to as a country and has become a vicious conundrum for all, especially health professionals.
Ghanaians were left in a state of shock when the news that 500 seized excavators had gone AWOL, hit the media space in 2020. The Ghana Police Service announced the arrest of Horace Ekow Ewusi, the then Vice-chairman of the ruling New Patriotic Party in the Central Region, together with Frederick Ewusi, Joel Asamoah, Adnan Haruna, Frank Gyan and John Arhin and subsequently charged with stealing and abetment of stealing respectively.
Interestingly and shockingly, the case never passed the litmus test and never saw the light of day and Ghanaians seem to have forgotten about it. The subtle evaporation of the case into thin air gave credence to much ado about nothing.
THE HORROR STORY
It is reported that fourteen (14) out of sixteen (16) regions are seriously hit by the galamsey menace. Water bodies such as Offin, Pra, Tano, Densu, Ankobra, Samre, Bonsa, Birim, Black Volta, Enu, and Nawuni among others are not spared pollution by illegal mining activities.
Thousands of hectares of cocoa farms, forest reserves and even dwelling places of residents in the mining communities have been destroyed in the search for gold.
Surprisingly, the actual causes of the menace are not understood by the government, hence focusing on unnecessary expenditures that have not yielded any significant outcome since 2017.
In recent days, there has been news about the activities of Akonta Mining Company Limited, a mining firm owned by the Ashanti Regional chairman of the New Patriotic Party, Bernard Antwi Boasiako in the Tano Nimri Forest in the Aowin Municipality of the Western North Region which has raised eyebrows at Samreboi in the Amenfi West municipality of the Western Region.
The Samartex Timber and Plywood Company raised concerns about the effect of the illegal entry into the Tano Nimri Forest by the mining firm and the pending consequences of the activities. The Timber and Wood-workers Union of Samartex Timber and Plywood Company (TWU) subsequently issued a press statement on 15th August, 2022 highlighting the looming impact of the galamsey activity embarked upon by Akonta Mining Company Ltd on the Samartex company which has a workforce of over 2,500, who could, in turn, lose their livelihoods, the looming closure of the Samartex Hospital and School.
Samartex could be forced to halt its Corporate Social Responsibility (constant grading, reshaping and maintenance of 200km of roads used by a population of over 400,000 in the past 25 years) because the forest from which the company gets its raw materials for processing and exportation was under siege by some self-seeking and greedy illegal miners supposedly under the guise of political cover.
The Minerals Commission, in a press release dated 17th August, 2022 stated that “The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources has not granted any prospecting license in a forest reserve”. The release further clarified that Akonta Mining had applied for a prospecting license which is yet to be processed by the Minerals Commission. The Release also sought to assert that the company had also applied for a Forest Entry Permit to enter the Tano Nimri Forest.
By a letter dated August 8, 2022, the Forestry Commission wrote to the Minerals Commission indicating that although it has, in principle, no objection to the Company’s application, the application must be processed SUBJECT TO THE MINISTER FOR LANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES’ DIRECTIVE ON MINING IN THE FOREST”
However, the Akonta Mining Company had been in the forest for two days and the problem was that the company could raze the forest down within a few days if it had not been stopped.
Surprisingly, no action whatsoever was taken either by the Minerals Commission, Forestry Commission or the Ministry to get Akonta Mining Company out of the Tano Nimri Forest.
Fast forward, some youth at Samreboi upon realizing their attempt to get the attention of the authorities, including the Board Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Tetrete Okuamoah Sekyim II, to stop Akonta Mining Company from the forest had proven futile, resorted to taking on the fight against the mining firm and their heavy security.
On the 28th September, 2022, some of the youth allegedly abducted a driver of Akonta Mining Company transporting a washing plant into the forest which triggered the wrath of the heavily built and well-armed security of the company to retaliate on September 29, 2022, by shooting and threatening the workers of Samartex Company right at the main entrance to the latter’s company.
The youth at Samreboi also took the war upon themselves and burnt two cars belonging to the Akonta mining company.
Interestingly, on the 30th September, 2022, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources issued a statement directing Akonta Mining Company to halt operations in the Tano Nimri Forest Reserve.
This brings to bear the begging question;
- Why would the Ministry sit unconcerned for Akonta Mining Company to destroy several acres of rich forest before issuing this knee-jerk directive?
- Who would be responsible for the reclamation of the destroyed areas in the forest?
- Should every affected community take the laws into its hands and violently attack miners before they are ordered to leave the site?
- Are we going to see Bernard Antwi Boasiaoko alias Chairman Wontumi, CEO of Akonta Mining punished or the directive is enough?
- Is Akonta Mining above the laws to disregard the president’s directive and go unpunished?
My point is, if Operation Vanguard, Operation Halt II, Galamstop, President’s directives and other measures have failed, then perhaps the approach was wrong. We cannot do the same thing with the same approach as a nation and expect a different outcome. The approach must be changed.
The fight against the galamsey menace goes beyond pointing fingers in the opposite direction. It should be a fight against the ‘enemies within’ and backbiters. It needs to be tackled with a top-bottom approach as the bottom-top approach has woefully failed.
The alleged government officials and political party bigwigs, cronies and stooges must not be treated with kid’s gloves as they go about polluting the environment and looting our forest reserves with impunity and with care abandoned.
Bernard Antwi Boasiako and his Akonta Mining have offered the government the golden opportunity to send a strong warning to the miscreants who think they are bigger than the country’s laws and it is up to the Akufo Addo-Bawumia government to make that opportunity count.
We must protect our heritage and the environment and that must be a clarion call on all of us as RESPONSIBLE citizens.
There is no other Ghana than the one you and I are proud citizens of.
Warren Buffet once said “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long time ago” and for this reason, it behoves every well-meaning Ghanaian to call out illegality as and when it is being perpetrated, more especially if it infringes on the fundamental human rights of the good people of Ghana. If our forebearers ever did these reckless acts, where would we be by now?
Posterity will not forgive us if we sit aloof and look on as some selfish individuals wreak indelible havoc on our very selves and our land. Let us be citizens and take our destinies into our own hands.
The long, insipid and boring speeches, the lip service, the parochial partisan politics, the blame game and the cover-ups must be handcuffed and prosecuted.
We must restore integrity in public life for the unborn generation.
If you see something, say something! ARISE GHANA!! TIME NO DEY!!!
The time to act is NOW!!!!
Y3n ara asaase ni!!!!!!!
From the corridors of the Thinking Citizen
BY CAPTAIN KOFI TAKYI.