Having worked in a mining community for four years, I have not being surprised at the reports of arrests of illegal miners, including Chinese. I do not think most of us have been surprised with the news reports. Yes galamsey is rife; yes there are lots of foreigners involved in yet, not just Chinese; yes they destroy vegetations and water bodies; but no, the police and we as a people are not doing enough to stop them.
I will tell you what, when I was working in a mining area the locals would tell me it was not too strange hearing about cave-ins and all. As a matter of fact there were strong beliefs that those engaged in galamsey died on almost daily basis. Tie that with the belief that the more blood that spilled the more gold the pits produced, and you will understand why deaths deter no one in that business. And yes, they are all sorts of folks engaged in that business. I have encountered folks from all parts of the country and lots of French-speaking ones as well. And yes, there are lots of children involved in galamsey as well.
These facts we all ought to know. The effects of galamsey on the natural environment have been drummed into our ears long enough; the use of mercury which causes a permanent damage to the environment, washing off chemicals into river bodies and the list goes on and on. But I get the impression that as a people we have not done enough to end the menace it causes.
The argument has been made time and again about the fact that our people need to get jobs and need to benefit from the gold but we do need to do this properly. Yes we encourage small scale miners to licensed but do we show enough commitment in that direction when (last I checked) there was just one office set up to register small scale miners in the Western Region though the miners are sprawled all over the country. The supervision of the registered ones is even allegedly weak.
The thing is these illegal miners make a lot of money. In the past people like the Chinese were at the receiving end of buying the gold but they are not stupid. After all it was the same Chinese who said that ‘it is better to teach a person how to fish than get them fish everyday’, so they have come to fish gold from the earth, our earth, and they don’t care how they do it. Whether we like it or not the Chinese have crept into bodies like ringworms and it will take a very delicate process to pull them out completely.
Yes lets lash at these 27 Chinese whiles we can and even extend it to Hu for added pleasure but we should look within a little more. Chiefs, politicians, top civil servants, etc have been alleged to be ‘financiers of pits’. So whiles they go screaming hoarse on the need to streamline illegal mining and flush out these galamseyers for destroying the environment and all, they are raking in millions and paying no taxes and mining irresponsibly too.
Governments, both today and in the past have chosen to play dumb with the issue of galamsey. It estimated that within the area I worked before alone there are close to 10, 000 people working the various pits. That is a huge number for every politician to want to please. We are all witnesses to the rather silly circumstances that come up when metropolitan authorities seek to clear our streets and pull down unauthorized structures. The same thing occurs when the issues of stamping down the state’s authority to protect our environment. In the name of politics we turn a blind eye. I am not sure how we expect to grow up with that kind of attitude and to put an end to the menace.
I remember a teacher of mine in JSS, Bright Bobobee will say to us something to the effect that “treat the environment nice so your children’s children can experience it too”. There is a story I will say about this man some other time. But for now, I think that if we as a people and our government truly care about our environment and our future, then they should demonstrate it. I pray the action by the Western Regional Police Command is not a flash in the pan.
My one pesewa.
PO: March 10, 2012