Small-scale mining is still legal in Ghana and it reserved only for Ghanaians, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, said on Thursday.
He said all illegal mining activities were being weeded out of the system, with many of the foreigners caught engaging in them arrested and being prosecuted, while those of West African origins had been deported.
There were more than 250 registered Ghanaians currently engaged in small-scale mining, he said, adding; “So if you go somewhere and somebody is mining don’t assume it is galamsey.”
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was speaking to journalists at a media engagement in Accra to interact and foster stronger relationship between the media and the Ministry of Environment.
He said the fight against galamsey, which started in 2017, was to help the country to “define illegality in the sector”, which was destroying water bodies, river beds and forest reserves.
He said illegal mining came with a huge cost to the nation.
The Minister explained that the former galamsey operators degraded the lands without reclaiming it while others used dangerous chemicals such as cyanide and mercury without authorisation.
Others also used bulldozers and excavators to destroy the communities.
He mentioned that through such illegal mining most of the water bodies like River Bia, Tano and Pra became highly polluted, but thanks to the fight against galamsey “all these impunities have stopped”.
He said over 4,000 small scale miners had been trained in sustainable mining and assisted many young people in acquiring alternative livelihood programmes being run by the Ministry of Local Government.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said presently the most difficult aspect of the situation was the issue of local farmers and landowners who continued to hide and engage in illegal mining.
“It not easy to stop these activities because it is being done by the owners of the farms.”
He said most of the rivers were regaining their former status and urged the public to support government’s efforts at restoring the water bodies to ensure quality water supply in the years ahead.
The country would need about 400 million dollars to restore the Ankobra River alone that had been so polluted by the galamsey operators, while 21 billion dollars would be required to restore the degraded mining lands, Prof. Frimpong Boateng said.
He said the various agencies under the Ministry, including the Council for Scientific and Industry Research (CSIR), Atomic Energy Commission, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were all working hard to promote socio-economic development.
He said the CSIR, through its 13 institutes, were helping to ensure food security by coming out with many varieties of crops and animal breeds, as well as technology to support growth.
He said the Atomic Energy Commission was also helping with nuclear agriculture and radiation protection, among other things, while the EPA was working to keep a safe environment.