Galamsey fight: Burning excavators, other equipment not the way to go

The Small-Scale Miners Association has kicked against the government’s approach in fighting illegal small-scale mining in the country.

The Association says while it is not against efforts to address the problem of illegal small-scale mining popularly known as galamsey, it does not believe that burning excavators and other mining equipment is not a sustainable solution.

Speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show on Thursday, the General Secretary of the Small-Scale Miners Association, Godwin Armah, said the current law only mandates state authorities to seize such equipment and not burn them as being done by the military task force deployed to fight the menace.

His comment comes on the back of President Akufo-Addo’s declaration that the government approves of the burning and destruction of equipment used in illegal mining operations.

 “I know there are some who believe that the ongoing exercise of ridding our water bodies and forest zones of harmful equipment and machinery is unlawful and in some cases harsh. I strongly disagree, and I will advise those who take a contrary view to go to court to vindicate their position if they so wish. That is what the rule of law is all about,” President Akufo-Addo said at a recent public gathering on the matter.

But Godwin Armah has challenged the President’s view, saying that the destroyed equipment could be put to better use such as reclaiming lands destroyed by illegal mining, hence making the burning counterproductive.

The law makes it clear that it [equipment] should be sent to the police station and after 60 days the Minister can dispose it to the relevant authorities or government agencies that need it. You look at the position of the government now is to burn any equipment that is working on river bodies or in forest reserves. As an association, looking at the whole issue, when you use the military approach and burn excavators, what next? What do we do to reclaim those pits to rejuvenate the land? From day one we have said that burning of the equipment is not something that we support. This same equipment that was used to destroy should be the same equipment that should be used to reclaim the land. Reclaiming the land is very expensive,” he said.

Mr. Armah further suggested that the task force should also have officials of the Mineral Commission as part of their team to help in assessing suspected illegal small-scale mining companies to be sure that they are not operating illegally.

He mentioned that two legal small-scale mining companies who are part of his association have had their equipment wrongfully destroyed because the military officers who are not technocrats assumed that their operations were illegal.

“When you get to the field, and you are not an expert, you won’t understand the process, and I don’t blame the military man… Minerals commission should be part of the process,” he added.

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