Ghana appears to be losing the battle against illegal mining, popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’, particularly in the Amansie Central, Adansi North and Obuasi municipalities, all in the Ashanti Region.
The reason is that the key players who are supposed to fight against the practice are themselves engaged in it, all in the name of making money at the expense of the people.
Chiefs, assembly members and the police are aware of the destructive activities of some Chinese through galamsey but have chosen to ignore complaints and tip-offs given by people in the affected communities.
Daily Graphic investigations have revealed that those who get arrested and are paraded as people engaged in galamsey are the small fries, as the real culprits are usually left untouched.
What is worse, though a number of people have been arrested in the past for engaging in the illegality, not many have been prosecuted because even before the case gets to court, the big guns who run the show from afar use their connections to have the cases dropped.
A striking case involved 45 galamsey operators who got arrested about two years ago for illegally possessing and using explosives in unapproved mining activities. Regrettably, the Obuasi Police have failed to arraign a single one of them up till now.
Again, there is the infamous story of 21-year-old Alabila Atia who nearly killed 12 security guards of AngloGold Ashanti but was let off the hook within a month of his arrest.
Atia’s case appears to have emboldened other young men to join in galamsey operations with the belief that they will be let off even when arrested.
The alleged involvement of traditional authorities, from ‘odikros’ (regents) to paramount chiefs, is weakening the determination of community members to help address the problem.
Meanwhile, in spite of the fact that the Daily Graphic had been told by galamsey operators that there were ‘big men’ behind their activities, the Obuasi Municipal Chief Executive, Mr Ofori Agyemang Boadi; the Chief of New Edubiase, Nana Esirifi Asare, and the Obuasi District Police Crime Officer, DSP Antwi Boasiako, have all denied the story and described it as odd and even a bit weird.
According to Mr Boadi, following the massive encroachment on AngloGold Ashanti’s 480 km square concession, which stretched from the Obuasi municipality to Amansie Central through to Adansi North and South, it was decided about six years ago to enter into a gentlemen’s agreement with unemployed youth in the mine’s catchment areas, under which the youth were given portions of the concession to mine as precaution against sabotage.
AngloGold Ashanti has, however, denied this assertion.
Lack of support
Meanwhile, as the accusations and counter-accusations continue, serene villages with their once leafy green environments are being robbed of their vegetation and sources of water.
At Achiase, Anwona, Sanso, Nyamebekyere, Fiankoba, Adaase, Kowia, Boete and surrounding villages, AngloGold appears to be gradually losing ground against the marauding youth.
It appears to lack the strength or power, in the present circumstances, to fully have control of its lands, as it seems to have ‘lost’ the backing of the authorities of the area.
At the moment, all the major rivers in the area, including the Oda, Kowia, Nyam, San and Fena, have become heavily polluted. Farmlands have also been destroyed and very large areas dug in search of gold.
If care is not taken, people of the area will go outside their communities in search of food and water.
Not even buildings are spared, as in some of the towns galamsey operators have dug close to dwelling places.
A well-known galamsey operator at Boete, who gave his name only as Aberaman, said galamsey was not a crime but “a way of recovering what rightfully belonged to our ancestors”.
He said he was leading a group of young men to resist moves by AngloGold to reclaim lands that belonged to the company, even though compensation for the property had been paid to their grandparents decades ago.
Aberaman said there was the need for the government to streamline galamsey activities by giving it legal backing, saying when that was done, it would reduce the spate of robberies among the youth.
The fight against galamsey has been quite difficult because of lack of trust between the mining companies and security agencies.
The Daily Graphic has learnt that galamsey operators receive tip-off each time the two bodies plan to swoop on the illegal miners, rendering the operation ineffective.
The solution, as it were, may lie in the arrest and prosecution of the people who are allegedly giving backing to the galamsey operatives.
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