By; Gabriel Edzordzi Agbozo
Chinese illegal mining in our country is no more speculation but a reality. Some time ago, they overtook the Adansi and Amansie West districts. As we expressed our resentment towards the newcomers, some Chinese miners reached for weapons to defend their operations. In other words, the former Gold Coast is hardly glittering above ground. In June 2009, some seven Chinese were arrested for illegal mining in Amansie West. The Chinese fired guns to disperse a group of town youth attempting to stop their illegal mining activities. The incident came after a group of armed robbers attacked Chinese individuals in Manso Nkwanta and allegedly killed one of them. Police said the robbers stole cash, mobile phones as well as some gold nuggets. A similar incident was reported in neighboring Fiankoba. It is no wonder that almost every Chinese in Ghana knows Obuasi. The appearance of Chinese miners in Obuasi corresponds with an increased spate of illegal activities in the area. The town, located in the Adansi district bordering Amansie, is home to the country’s biggest mine, which is operated by mining giant AngloGold Ashanti (AGA).
Speaking at the Ohumkan Festival of the chiefs and people of Akyem Tafo in the East Akyem Municipality in the Eastern Region in August 2012, the then Vice President, Mr. John Mahama warned that the Government will not continue to sit down for any foreigner to come in and flout the laws of Ghana by involving themselves in illegal mining and those who will be caught will face the full rigours of the law without any discrimination. To date, we have not prosecuted any of these defaulters of the law.
On January 10, 2013, it was reported that, heavily armed galamsey (illegal mining) operators have invaded the main intake points of the Ghana Water Company (GWC) on the Prah River in the Mpohor Wassa East District in the Western Region. The illegal miners completely blocked the company’s intake points at Bosomase and Daboase and officials of the company have to employ manual labour at very high cost to clear the blockage. It is estimated that there are more than 300 different groups of illegal miners, made up of over 5,000 individuals on the Pra River operating from Beposo to Assin-Praso with their self-styled floating dredging mining equipment and using mercury and other dangerous chemicals to extract the gold. It is common to see these illegal activities going on along all the rivers and streams that take their source from the Atiwa rang notably the Birim, Subrani, Amo, Sushen, Berempong and Asikasu rivers. Most of these groups consist of foreigners.
The consequences of the activities of these people have very devastating effects on us. There are great environmental damages done to the surrounding natural habitat. Water bodies are contaminated with heavy metal to the release of mercury, which is used to extract gold, into the environment. Exposure to mercury can cause kidney problems, arthritis, miscarriage, brain damage, memory loss and psychotic reactions. It is very dangerous for babies and children’s health. Cocoa and other agricultural farms like plantain and cassava are now denuded of greenery and have no agricultural activity. In 2011, floods swept the nation’s cocoa growing Eastern region, killing at least 5 people. More than 100,000 people were also reported displaced by the floodwater, which destroyed houses, roads and farms. Investigations showed that illegal miners had blocked the main river passage and diverted its course for their convenience. During the flooding some affected formers in towns like Akim Akrofufu near Anyinam could not return home after their farming activities and therefore have to use tall trees as their rescue place for number of days.
The Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) must be enforced to the later. Locals also worry about the environmental destruction being caused by the mining. Some activists feel compelled to take the law into their own hands. It seems our governments over the years have turned a blind eye to the situation. We don’t want to believe that the recent 2.4-billion euro loan that the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) granted to Ghana was supposed to seal the mouth of our authorities to clamp down on them. The earlier we all work to dispel this very dangerous phenomenon, the better for us all as a nation. The days of colonial rule are over. The Chinese must not be allowed to visit another form of colonization of our own mineral resources. Let us assert our sovereignty without any fear or favor.
God bless our homeland Ghana.