Western Regional Minister-designate Dr Kwaku Afriyie says some farmers in the region are contributing to illegal mining activities, popularly known as ‘galamsey’.
According to him, farmers cannot complain that their farms are being destroyed by illegal mining when they themselves call the miners to undertake the activity on their farms.
“The antecedent thinking behind deforestation and illegal mining is not even correct. For example, when I hear that a farmer sits somewhere and galamsey people come and mine and devastate his farm, that is not correct.
“It is the farmer who rather goes to the galamseyer and say ‘come and do some little mining to see whether this place is rich in gold’ and they sell it,” he said when he took his turn at Parliament’s Appointment Committee to be vetted as minister-designate.
Western Regional minister-designate, Dr Kwaku Afriyie
Dr Afriyie said this happens because the cocoa farms do not bring so much income to the farmers and since most of them are old, they are ready to allow these illegal miners into their farms.
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 in the Western region.
The illegal miners with their self-styled floating dredging mining equipment, use mercury and other dangerous chemicals to extract the gold.
Their activities have led to the discharge of heavy metals into the water, which agitates the river bed, leading to blockage and damage to pumps with dire health and environmental implications.
Aside the expensive nature of treating polluted water for consumption, the discharge of heavy metals into the river poses a direct threat to millions of people whose lives depend on the rivers that flow through their communities.
The illegal miners also discharge uncontrolled levels of arsenic materials directly into the river that feeds the communities, which a mining engineer said was dangerous to the health of the affected communities.
Dr Afriyie says this should not be allowed to happen. If approved as regional minister, he said he will ensure that the laws on mining are enforced.
“We have to have recourse to the law enforcement. We have to do a review, but on the other hand, we have to draw a balance between illegal mining and legal mining.
“We cannot abolish mining. Ghana’s economy will sink. But there are illegal miners out there so the law itself and the policies will have to be looked at because some of them are unenforceable.”
Dr Afriyie said chiefs in the various communities have a huge role to play and they must be involved in a national dialogue aimed at ensuring that the country’s water bodies are preserved.
“We have to stop this menace,” he stressed.