The word, “GALAMSEY” is said to have been coined from the phrase, “Gather and Sell” and was used by the youth who indulged in Small Scale Mining in the colonial era. It also tells us of the nature of mining that took place as at that time. “Gather and Sell”, thus making the gathering and sale of Gold more of a premium than the process with which it is mined.
This process of mining has not changed that much since the colonial era. The average person indulging in Galamsey today therefore has one motive; get the gold out of the land and send it to the market to sell for money. Do we blame them since nothing much has changed in terms of capacity building and the need to be friendly to the environment in the course of the extraction of the valuable mineral, between the colonial era and now. The end result was therefore not surprising; polluted water bodies and a messed up environment.
The decision of this Government to stop this crazy development which had managed to survive every Government that has come and gone in this country can always be described as laudable. Not that this Government is the only one that has fought this menace; it is however worthy of note that this Government comes out as the one that has met the challenge with the most strong and vociferous force that it needed to deal with the situation.
Three things worked in favor of this Government; the honeymoon of a newly elected Government that gave them the power to take any decision they wanted and the hope of the people to be otherwise engaged by the new Government to mitigate whatever financial challenges they expected to face as a result of the short term break in the business whilst Government took time to sanitize the system. The people also believed the ban was temporary and would be allowed to go back to ply their trade after the system might have been sanitized.
Government however seems to have not been able to make the best use of everything that worked for them as it has not been able to make any meaningful social intervention to mitigate the plight of the miners ever since the ban was enacted. The time of their honeymoon also keeps wasting away. They are already two years in office without any meaningful decision taken on the matter. The Government also missed the opportunity to quickly put a proper system in place to get the mostly young miners back to business to restore their livelihood as was expected of them from the onset. This situation gradually keeps eating away whatever goodwill is left for the Government with the miners.
The second problem the Government’s poor handling of this otherwise laudable program is the compounding of the financial situation we find ourselves in, in the country today. One thing every Government should take into consideration before taking such a decision is the amount of money the Galamsey Business brought into the economy and must have a plan to have it managed properly to ensure that it does not affect the economy negatively. That is also the more reason why the break in that business should not have been allowed to stay for too long.
Going forward, Government should bring all Galamsey Operators together and build up their capacity in proper mining practices and licensed to go back operate in the area of their livelihoods.
Secondly Government should resource the Environmental Protection Agency in order to hire more staff and acquire sufficient equipment to be able to properly police all activities taking place in our environment including Small Scale Mining. I know many people will make the case of Government being challenged with resources and not being able to raise sufficient resources to fund the expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency. That is a legitimate concern. To deal with that problem, Government can review the tax on the sale of Gold from 0.5% to 5% which has been in place right from the colonial era and use the proceeds to fund the expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency .
Finally, let us disabuse our minds of the notion that Small Scale Mining is evil. No it is not. All over the world, Small Scale Mining is practised; the difference is in the fact that, in those places Monitoring and Supervision is taken very seriously. I am also more than confident that redundant Galamsey Operators would be more than happy to accept to pay the 5% tax to the State and undergo any short term capacity building in order to resume work and function properly in society.