The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, has appealed to the government to freeze small-scale mining because it is not different from illegal mining (galamsey) that is destroying water bodies and the environment generally. Describing small-scale mining as official galamsey, he said: “There is no way we can deal with galamsey if we allow small-scale mining to subsist. Small-scale mining must be banned alongside galamsey.” “In practical terms, there are barely any differences, either organisationally or technologically, between unregistered illegal miners and registered small-scale miners,” he told the Daily Graphic in an exclusive interview at the Ofori Panin Fie in Kyebi in the Eastern Region last Friday.
No licence “We cannot continue to issue licences to small-scale miners when, as a country, we lack the regulatory mechanism to evaluate risks thoroughly and ensure that the methods and chemicals used are safe. “Both galamsey and small-scale mining involve rudimentary techniques of mineral extraction, highly manual processes, hazardous working conditions and minimal capital investment. The only difference is that registered small-scale miners have security of land tenure,” he added.
The Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area, which is under the authority of the Okyenhene, has seen one of the worst effects of illegal mining, from the pollution of water bodies to the destruction of cocoa farms and agricultural land. The Okyenhene expressed worry over the high level of pollution which he said could be a ticking public health time bomb. Pollution and dangers Ghana’s mining laws require that mining companies treat the water used for mining activities before it is discharged into the environment, but for illegal miners, water bodies are the centre of their operations, a situation that makes communities living along rivers vulnerable to the effects of the dangerous chemicals used. Osagyefo Ofori Panin observed that galamsey activities exposed many Ghanaians to health challenges through the drinking of water contaminated by gaseous mercury, adding that many rural dwellers living along the banks of rivers were exposed to mercury-contaminated raw water. Indeed, traces of two heavy metals, arsenic and mercury, found in the Birim River in a research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI) have been tagged as harmful by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and on lungs, kidneys, the skin and eyes. People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound,” the WHO said on its website. The Okyenhene, therefore, urged the government to ban the sale of mercury. - See more at: