Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, says the belief that putting an end to illegal mining in the country will deny people of their livelihoods holds no water.
While successive governments have usually been driven by the threat to the environment to fight the menace, those engaged in it usually use the lack of jobs or unemployment as their excuse, insisting that their livelihoods would be taken away if they stop mining.
Some have also suggested that the surest way to permanently tackle the menace, is to find alternative livelihoods for those engaged in the activity.
The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, believes once these illegal miners find decent jobs, they will back down on the illegal activity, and that will go a long way in curtailing the menace.
But the Ofoase/Ayirebi lawmaker says that argument is problematic.
In an interview on Face to Face on Citi TV, he stated that, under no circumstance can the government condone the illegality.
“Let us not get to the stage where people rise up and say they are armed robbers because there is nothing else for them to do, and if you stop them they will lose their source of livelihood. Illegality has never been an option for economic activity. We have to be clear on that.”
According to him, (legal) mining in itself offers a wide range of economic opportunities.
“For people who want to engage in economic activities, even in mining, there are legal and responsible ways to go about it. Even as we deal with illegal and irresponsible mining, all the other forms of mining are allowed and supported by the state. If anybody is talking about alternative livelihoods, there is already space in that area.”
Mr. Oppong Nkrumah indicated that the government after the ‘Operation Halt’ exercise, will start dredging and reclaiming polluted water bodies, adding that it will engage the “communities and the people who may have been involved in some of these practices or may have thought of it to pay more attention to the other alternatives available.”
He clarified that the government is not against small-scale mining, only that it requires individuals who wish to venture into it to do so “legally and responsiblly.”
“Government is not against galamsey, which is actually small-scale mining. Government is against illegal and irresponsible mining. It so happens that those who engage in illegal and irresponsible mining do so on a small-scale basis, and so the two have become synonymous,” he added.
The fight against illegal mining appears to have been a difficult task for successive governments.
Aside from denying the government revenue from minerals, forest reserves, water bodies, and in some cases farmlands, have been severely destroyed through this illegal activity.
After the deployment of its ‘Operation Vanguard’ which ended with very little impact, the incumbent government through another exercise, dubbed ‘Operation Halt’, is currently confiscating and burning all equipment allegedly used by illegal miners particularly close to water bodies and in forest reserves.
Nonetheless, the country is divided over this approach of burning the seized equipment, as against the approach stipulated in the country’s Minerals and Mining Act, Act, 995.