Galamsey: Drastic Water Scarcity, Other Environmental Hazards Looming Over Ghana’s Unreasonable Value for Gold

Over the years, government has been making efforts by coming up with different policies to curb the practice of illegal gold mining, otherwise known as galamsey in Ghana. 

The love and desire for more gold by illegal miners might eventually lead to the fulfillment of a water scarcity prediction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This dreadful prediction or rather warning, has been reiterated by EPA, in regards to the growing rate of illegal mining in the country otherwise known as galamsey.

Director for Natural Resources at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Carl Fiati has warned that Ghana may soon import drinking water from neighboring countries, if government does not curb illegal mining.

Galamseys are people who mine gold independently of mining companies, by digging pits, tunnels and sluices by hand. At a typical galamsey site, able-bodied youth mostly men turn up muddy soil with their digging and drilling tools. The women tend to provide less labour intensive services such as fetching water for the washing of retrieved gold.

See: How Ghana Lost Up to $6m In Taxes through Gold Smuggling to India

However, the increasing number of people mining illegally across the country has gotten to an alarming rate, drawing the attention of stakeholders to the looming environmental destruction, capable of bringing the nation to its knees.

Galamsey Abuse

Mining in Ghana is a major economic activity. This activity can be traced  back to the days of colonialism when the nation was called the Gold Coast. Being the country’s huge mineral wealth, small scale gold mining was respected at the time. But since abuse found its way into the process, Ghana has been on the receiving end of untold damages caused by the practice of galamsey which has become a major source of livelihood for persons living around legal mining communities.

galamsey in Ghana
A Galamsey site in Ghana

Shutdown of Water Plants

Reports have confirmed the recent shut down of some water plants as a result of gross adulteration by illegal miners. According to Ghana Water Company (GWC), the Abessim water treatment plant in the Brong-Ahafo Region has been closed as a result of massive reduction in water levels in the Tano River caused by illegal mining.

It can be recalled that the Kyebi Water treatment plant was also shut down in August 2016, following failed attempts to get the water to be properly treated.

How Galamsey Has Marred Environmental Growth

While this seems to be the recently recorded damages caused by galamsey in Ghana, there have been massive unrecorded damages brought about by the prevalence of illicit mining in the country.

The widespread practice of galamsey has led to massive degradation of lands and pollution of many river bodies in the country. It is no news that River Birem, the iconic river of the Akyem ethnic group has since been degraded into a slow moving sludge – courtesy of galamsey. The damage has also extended to other rivers in the area where its waters have been grossly polluted or poisoned with cyanide and mercury, converting it into greenish brown waste water.

Talking about terrestrials; this illicit act has degraded cocoa farms, oil palm plantations, as well as other cash and food crops are being totally destroyed.

How It Can be Curbed 

Over the years, government has made efforts by coming up with different policies to help curb galamsey in Ghana. Many of these attempts have however proved futile. After several failed attempts, EPA has also called on government to intensify such measures aimed at beefing up surveillance, regarding the abuse of mining.

Speaking to Citi News, the EPA director stressed that the problem of galamsey is a very complex one and government must thus develop a national will to address it. The EPA director who lamented that Ghana of today, values the gold more than water which is very bad for the country.

The environmentalists are calling on all stakeholders to join forces for the purpose of saving the environment, especially in regards to the looming water scarcity.

A good way of handling the menace is for government to block all mining areas and issue policies that will only allow people into such areas, when government opens them. Mr. Carl Fiati asked that defaulters of government policies on gold mining be arrested, prosecuted and jailed to serve as deterrent to others.

While EPA regulates the activities of registered mining bodies, there are those who have gone into mining without the requisite permit, hence abusing the activity. These people who as a matter of fact, are fully aware they are breaking the rules tend to be armed and cannot be controlled by EPA alone. This is where government comes in.

The EPA has called on security agencies, Ministry of Lands and Forestry, and other stakeholders to work together to curb prevailing illegal galamsey in Ghana.