The government of Nana Akufo-Addo has been taking giant strides towards ensuring that illegal mining commonly known in Ghana as galamsey becomes a story of the past, together with all its associated consequences. Despite how tasking the battle has since turned out to be, it appears from all indications that the government has no plans of looking back in the anti-galamsey fight.
Latest on the list of government’s anti-illegal mining moves, is plans to roll out a reforestation programme come next year, 2018. According to the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, plans are underway to launch a comprehensive and aggressive reforestation programme that will encourage plantation development and restore forests that have been degraded by illegal mining.
The programme, according to Mr. Anewu who was speaking at a workshop on insect infestation in forest plantations at Fumesua in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipality, is also targeted at creating job and income opportunities by promoting plantation development as a lucrative business venture.
Speaking further, the Lands Minister indicated that the programme will involve banks and financial institutions who will be made to give support to plantation developers. In addition, the Forestry Commission will establish an extension unit to provide technical and extension support to tree growers. The Commission will also set up an efficient fire unit to train and promptly respond to wild fires, which had over the years been devastating commercial plantations.
Gov’t Reclaims Degraded Lands
Among other significant steps which the government has since initiated in its determined anti-galamsey fight, is the commencement of lands reclamation exercise back in April this year. The exercise was targeted at restoring an estimated 1.5 per cent of the country’s land surface which has reportedly been degraded by illegal mining and other unhealthy environmental activities.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. John Peter Amewu, who made the disclosure then, said that the reclamation exercise commenced with the leveling of land in the degraded areas. Mr. Amewu said that the ministry, via the reclamation project, “will also ensure that some of the pits with large volume of water are pumped out, filled and covered with top soil to restore the green vegetation” .
The Lands Minister stated that the entire programme is aimed at preparing the ground for a multilateral mining project. He explained that the aim of the government “is to ensure that people who wish to mine carry out their activities with the greatest respect for the environment – river bodies and the forest”.
He pointed out that “mining on rivers, digging of riverbeds and degrading the environment is criminal and punishable by law; adding that “the laws will be applied with appropriate sanctions”. According to the minister, it will take millions of cedis to reclaim and restore the lost vegetation to the sites, owing to the level of degradation.
The country’s land space stands at an estimated area of 238,000 squre kilometers; and about 50,000 to 60,000sq km of this (representing 1.5 per cent), is reportedly degraded by illegal mining and other abusive environmental practices.
Mr Amewu further revealed that some mining firms are relinquishing portions of their concession to government for them to be given to small-scale miners. According to him “Anglogold Ashanti has already allocated 60 per cent of their concession”. He said that all the concessions will be allocated under the project; adding that the Ministry is also liaising with some small-scale licence holders in order to regroup them.
The Minister of Lands’ stances appear to be in line with the disclosure made by Vice President Bawumia during his 100 Days in Office Lecture delivery on 17th April, 2017, regarding the ongoing anti-galamsey fight. According to the Veep, government is planning to restructure the gold mining sector through a five year multilateral mining integrated project. He had explained that the project will protect the environment, as well as allow Ghanaians to mine in a regulated and sustainable manner.
Meanwhile, the issuance of mining licences to small scale miners has since been suspended till further notice as part of the anti-galamsey fight. This is to allow the government to put in place all the necessary measures that will regulate their activities.