Ghana Vice-President speaks against illegal small-scale mining

8th May, 2012 reports that Vice-President Mahama spoke out against illegal small-scale mining ('galamsey') in Ghana, and in particular has “cautioned Chiefs and traditional leaders against condoning conniving with illegal small scale miners“.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Edikan Mine, near Ayanfuri, he went on to say that “this practice will be to the detriment of public interest an will have a very negative impact on the environment“.  If our own work in the area is anything to go by, then I wonder why he was speaking in the future tense, when he should have been using the past tense, or actually the present continuous tense…

Anyway, he stressed that the government would do its best to curb “if not to totally eradicate” the activities of  illegal miners.

Wouldn't it be nice if this was possible?  In fact, however, illegal and 'legal' small-scale operations are kept in existence by the support from powerful people in regional and national capitals, and possibly by powerful people in regional (and national?) government.  These are the powers that can exert forces on the Minerals Commission to keep licences that should have expired, magically alive, and who have enough clout to provide mining equipment, pumps, generators, etc.  The actual galamsey workers, who eke out some sort of a living with hard, sometimes dangerous work, are often portrayed (also by some foreign parties) as part of a poverty-reduction mechanism.  I could go on and on, but let me just say here that I do not agree.  Refer to an earlier blog post of mine, from almost 2 years ago:

Ghana is moving towards an election at the end of this year.  It is probably one of the most democratic countries on the continent, so I expect the election to be more or less free and fair, and for the winner to be recognised and accepted, and for the losers to concede.  But no party is going to alienate any voters (including thousands of illegal miners) prior to an election.

I am therefore not expecting illegal small-scale mining in Ghana to be eradicated soon…