President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called for broad-based national consensus that would promote a responsible, viable, and environmentally sustainable small-scale mining industry.
He said there was need to address and stamp out the menace of illegal small-scale mining, otherwise known as “galamsey”, and support and grow responsible small-scale mining, devoid of the use of mercury, chanfans and excavators, and the involvement of foreign nationals, to protect Ghana’s forest, environment and water bodies.
The President made the call when he opened the National Consultative Dialogue on Small-scale mining in Accra on Wednesday.
On the theme: “Sustainable Small-Scale Mining for National Development,” the two-day dialogue, being organised by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is aimed at forging a broad-based consensus and a workable blueprint to promote sustainable mining practices, as well as stem the tide of illegal small-scale mining in the country.
Industry players including the Ghana Association of Small-Scale Miners, Ghana Chamber of Mines, chiefs from the 16 regions, members of the Council of State, members of the National House of Chiefs, Former Ministers of Lands and Natural Resources, heads of state institutions, representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and captains of industry are attending the meeting.
President Akufo-Addo noted that though mining could create jobs, improve livelihoods and generate wealth, it must not be done at the expense of damaging the very environment that produced the riches.
“We have to acknowledge that Ghana is not made up of only the humans, but is also made up of the soil, the mountains and valleys, the forests, the rivers, the lakes, the seas, and the plant and animal life as well. Without them, we, humans, cannot, and will not, survive; and so they also need nurturing. We have to acknowledge that the natural environment has as much a right to be here as we humans do.
The President made reference to stories around the world that showed wildlife returning to rivers and lakes, parks and gardens, and even to some town and village centres, as people retreated into lockdowns or cut back on open public activities because of COVID-19, saying that there was need to co-exist in harmony with nature.
“There is clearly a contest between us, humans, and the natural environment, and it is a lesson we must collectively confront. We must adapt to co-existing in peace and harmony with nature. This is the time to help rejuvenate our land, the time to take a careful look at how we use the land, the time to revisit our farming and building practices, and, yes, the time to address the issue of galamsey,” he told the gathering.
The President bemoaned the “politicization of the vexed issue of illegal mining” by some political actors in the country who seek political mileage from the fight against galamsey, without considering its devastating effects on the environment.
“We cannot have one part of the political divide campaigning for galamsey in the bush and the other waging an official fight against galamsey in the open. We must, however, come to the understanding that small scale mining, and the requirement to do away with illegalities in that sector, should be beyond partisan politics.
“We must demonstrate that we love our land and are capable of taking care of it ourselves. Some subjects simply cannot be part of our everyday politicking,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo reiterated his determination to enforce the laws on illegal mining, irrespective of the standing of the persons involved, saying, “That is the true meaning of equality before the law.” he stressed.
“We want to build on the modest progress made in my first term. We want to learn from our shortcomings, and receive productive inputs from this forum for purposes of enhancing the regulation of the sector,” he said.
He urged the participants to dialogue in an open and candid manner to come out with a consensual road map that would enjoy broad-based national support.