Aljazeera, a Qatar-based television station, reported on Monday, this week, about the devastating effect illegal mining is having on the environment in Brazil. Visuals the international media shared with its viewers indeed tells a story of how water bodies have been destroyed through illegal mining activities in the South American country.
Like is happening here in Ghana, those who depend on these rivers and creeks as their main source of drinking water are facing serious challenges, as the water in the rivers are no more wholesome for human consumption. Brazil is being confronted with this huge problem at the time it has deployed a battalion of soldiers into the bush to fight the illegal miners.
This simply tells a story that illegal mining activities are not limited to Ghana alone, but is a worldwide problem. It does not, however, mean we should sit idle as if nothing is happening. We need to continue the war against illegal miners who are seen as an existential threat to Mother Ghana.
The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has revealed, according to a story we have carried today, that minerals exports for 2022 alone amounted to $6.6bn.
This means minerals have overtaken cocoa to become the number one export earner for the country. This huge figure, we suspect, is what has officially been declared to the government, as there are strong suspicions that most of the gold produced by the illegal miners are smuggled out of the country without the knowledge of the government of the day.
Indeed, a Corruption Watch Ghana report authored in 2021 indicated that “in 2016, information came through that between January 2014 and January 2016, a total of 101,179kg of gold valued at US$3,607,415,756.36 was shipped out of Ghana to India alone, without going through the necessary processes.”
If these smuggled gold were to go through the right channels, the $6.6bn figure the Minister is quoting could have been higher. This means the government is losing revenue through these smuggling activities at the time the illegal miners are also devastating our environment. The government must, therefore, descend heavily on the activities of the illegal miners to, first of all, ensure the safety of our environment and also rake in more revenue for the country.
Though the alternative livelihood programmes being implemented by the government and the various mining companies are laudable, it appears it is not working because the illegal miners have tasted and know what money is. They will, therefore, not rely on the ‘peanuts’ that they are going to get as a reward, when they start plying the trade they have learnt.
The government must surely shy away from her diplomatic stance and start arresting and jailing those found to be involved in the illegal mining. This is the only way we can ensure the protection of our water bodies and the environment. Rivers Tano, Ankobra and Offin among others have still not returned to normalcy after years of destruction by illegal miners.
However, if our suggestion to heavily crackdown on the miners is seen as too harsh, then the government must start implementing the alternative livelihood programmes throughout the country and not limit it to the mining areas. This will, probably, help to limit the migration of the youth from all corners of the country to the mining areas.
We cannot simply continue to suffer for the consequences of these illegal mining activities when proceeds from the sector are not properly accounted for. Brazil, despite all the frustrations she is going through has not given up. We need to fight the menace until we, as a country, achieve the goals we have set for ourselves – stopping illegal mining in order to protect our environment.