Apparently, I predicted some time ago that it would take massive leadership in order to curb the menace of illegal mining.
It was thus refreshing when President Akufo-Addo prudently placed an interim ban on small-scale mining activities.
That was, indeed, the quintessence of massive leadership. Akufo-Addo, so to speak, did what Napoleon could not do.
Despite the small-scale miners’ protestations over the temporary ban on their poorly regulated activities, it was, indeed, a pragmatic step to put better data and policies in place to get the sector back on track given the level of environmental degradation.
Let me crave your indulgence just a moment longer to pose: which independent country on this planet (Earth) would its politicians, regulators, and law enforcement bodies sit idly while some stubbornly impenitent foreign illegal immigrants despoil its natural resources and denude the environment?
Given the extreme dangers associated with illegal mining, it was, in fact, a step in the right direction for President Akufo-Addo to halt the illegal miners, many of whom were using noxious mercury and cyanide in their mining activities.
Sadly, however, some of us can attest to the fact that the lunatic fringe of the illegal miners is back in business following the lifting of the ban on small-scale mining activities.
In spite of the fact that small-scale mining operation is reserved for only Ghanaians, the sector in the recent past has been infiltrated by foreign illegal miners.
“Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon the land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water-courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and an area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic and is vested in the President in trust for the people of Ghana,” (Minerals Act 2006).
Subject to subsections (1) of 1989 small-scale mining laws (PNDCL 218) and (2) of section 75 of the Minerals and Mining Law, 1986 (PNDCL 153) and amended Act 2006(Act 703), no license for small-scale gold mining operation shall be granted to any person who is not a citizen of Ghana.
In practice, therefore, any person who without a license granted by the regulatory bodies and chooses to undertake any small-scale gold mining operation contrary to (subsection 1) of section 1 of small-scale mining law; or acts in contravention of any other provision of small-scale mining law in respect of which an offence has not been prescribed, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.
More importantly, where a foreigner is convicted of an offence under this Law he, shall after paying the fine or serving any imprisonment imposed on him, be liable to deportation under section 13 of the Aliens Act, 1963 (Act 160).
But despite the expedient regulatory measures that have been put in place, some greedy and unpatriotic Ghanaians have been conniving with the foreign illegal miners to steal our natural resources while the sector regulators looked on unconcerned.
It is an open secret that some Ghanaians would often secure plots of land and partner with the foreign illegal miners who have funds to bring in the bulldozers and other big equipment.
Even though the small-scale mining laws prohibit the use of large explosives, the foreign illegal miners are revoltingly using unstructured methods, and at the same time supplying large explosives, rock crushers, and other machines. How pathetic?
The fact of the matter is that the foreign illegal miners have mechanized artisanal mining, and as a result, the level of environmental devastation has been really huge.
It is absolutely true that potential economic benefits (employment, tax revenues, and development outcomes) can be derived from the small-scale mining sector in Ghana.
We cannot also deny the fact that small-scale mining is a significant contributor to the economic and social well-being of many people and households in rural, remote, and poor communities in Ghana.
However, the way the small-scale mining sector is being managed in Ghana does not look promising. The sector is being managed abysmally.
Somehow, the laws which govern the small-scale mining sector are confusing and inconsistent.
It must also be emphasised that societies at large have been both positively and negatively affected by small-scale mining.
The positive effects include the extraction of ores from small deposits or from tailings which provide the rural folks and other small-scale miners with sustainable incomes.
On the other hand, the negative effects include, among other things, environmental degradation, water pollution, the release of mercury and other toxic and hazardous wastes into the free environment, and unforeseen social tensions that can lead to civil unrest.
On the preponderance of probability, the negative effects outweigh the positive effects, and therefore it was prudent for any serious, committed, and forward-thinking leader to put tabs on the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners.
Going forward, the effective implementation of regulations and fortifications towards the developmental potential of the sector must be of the topmost importance to the regulating authorities.
Let us face it, they, the scumbags, are well -prepared and they routinely carry out their illegal activities with military precisions, and can strike as lighting, and as deadly and destructive as molten magma.
The illegal miners’ invasion of our countryside with a view to forcibly digging our mineral resources, polluting our sources of drinking water, destroying the environment, and above all terrorising the natives is tantamount to war.
Given the criminal intent of the illegal miners, we are, more than ever, urgently required our military power to combat the menace of the impenitent nation wreckers who are bent on stealing our natural resources and destroying the environment.
Columnist: Kwaku Badu