A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. Hungry small-scale miners are spitting fire and brimstone. After over a year of being denied the right to go into their various pits around the country, on account of the ban on illegal mining, patience is in short supply in the camp of those who used to descend into the bowels of the earth and extract gold and diamond for sale.
Hungry and naturally angry, these small-scale miners are threatening to hit the streets. At a press conference in Kumasi at the weekend, a group calling itself the Concerned Small-Scale Miners Association of Ghana bared its teeth at the Akufo-Addo administration. Its members issued an ultimatum to the state authorities to lift the ban on small-scale mining or face their wrath on the streets.
Mr. Michael Kwabena Peprah, spokesman for the organisation, said its members were starving as a result of the ban on their activities, and asked the government to lift the ban immediately, or face the wrath of its members on the streets.
He told the media that the ban, which was originally fixed for six months, has already travelled for a year and brought starvation, pain and agony to its members. What is worse, with the continuous ban in place, their members have had no means of generating any income and would have to continue suffering with their immediate family members.
The association accused the government of failing to address the problem of galamsey that prompted the ban in the first place. The association also claimed that Operation Vanguard, the military/police task force, has failed woefully in the fulfillment of its mandate.
The Chronicle sympathises with these miners. It is not easy to go for a whole year without an income in an economy that is already threatening to choke the system. For this reason, our thoughts are with them and members of their various families.
We are of the opinion though, that lifting the ban would not be an option in the immediate future. The way and manner our water bodies have been polluted, and our farmlands and forest cover destroyed, it would not be prudent to lift the ban and open the flood gates to more destruction.
It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that Operation Vanguard has had several setbacks, simply because the members of the various mining communities in the country, including individuals and organisations like the Small-Scale Miners Association, are not offering support. Evidence on the ground does not indicate that the mining communities are coming forward with information that would aid the combating of the menace.
We do not believe that the answer to their problem is hitting the streets. The only means of bringing finality to the menace is for our water bodies to recover and our farmlands and forest cover saved from degradation.
Instead of hitting the streets to be met by the force of the national police service, the Small-Scale Miners Association should provide the leads for the arrest of the main culprits and their bank-rollers.
Galamsey is a menace that should be fought with all the powers available to the state. We shall all perish if we turn a blind eye to the activities of these miscreants. Like they say, birds of the same feathers flock together. Operators of galamsey ought to be known by their counterparts licensed by the state to extract gold and diamond from the bowels of the earth.
If members of the Small-Scale Miners Association truly want to resume work, they would do well to provide the necessary information to aid Operation Vanguard fish out the culprits and bring them to book.
We do not believe that hitting the streets would put food on the table of the miners, licensed or illegal. Let us do the right thing by aiding the authorities to bring finality to the fight against galamsey.