We can’t afford to watch as our natural resources are plundered – Mahama on galamsey

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NDC 2024 presidential candidate, Former President John Dramani Mahama.
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The flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Former President John Dramani Mahama has observed that mining has been and will continue to be a significant contributor to Ghana’s economy.

But, he said, the nation must urgently acknowledge that illegal mining, including illegal small-scale mining (galamsey), has posed a severe and immediate threat to our environment, health, and economy.

Addressing the ‘3rd Annual Transformational Dialogue on Small-scale mining’ organised by the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani on Wednesday, May 15, he said “We cannot afford to watch as our natural resources are plundered, and our communities suffer the consequences.”

He further stated that Ghana, blessed with abundant natural resources, including gold, has experienced the devastating effects of illegal mining first-hand.

“Our rivers and lands have been polluted, our forests destroyed, and our people l without clean water and fertile land. We cannot allow illegal mining to continue unchecked, and we must chart a new vision for our country’s mining industry that prioritises sustainable development and responsible mining practices.

“We must look to both local Ghanaian examples and global incidents to inform our approach to curbing illegal mining. In our own country, we have witnessed the destruction caused by illegal mining in places like the Ankobra and Pra Rivers. We have seen the devastation caused by illegal mining in the Atewa Forest Reserve, home to endangered species and vital to our country’s water supply. We cannot afford to lose these precious natural resources to the greed of a few individuals.”

Internationally, he said, “we have seen the tragic consequences of illegal mining in places like Brazil, where the recent collapse of a dam at an illegal mining site resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives. Such incidents are a stark reminder of the dangers of unregulated mining and the need for more vigorous enforcement of mining laws and regulations.

“To address these challenges, we must work together, including all of you, to develop and implement policies that prioritise sustainable mining practices and hold those who engage in illegal mining accountable. This will require a multifaceted approach that includes stricter enforcement of mining laws, increased investment in responsible mining technologies, and enhanced efforts to educate and empower small-scale miners to operate sustainably.

“We must also prioritize preserving our environment and protecting our natural resources for future generations. This means taking bold steps to rehabilitate and restore areas affected by illegal mining and investing in renewable energy sources to reduce our reliance on traditional mining practices.

“As leader of the National Democratic>c Congress (NDC) and incoming President of the Republic, I am deeply committed to working with all stakeholders to chart a new vision for our country’s mining industry. We must ensure that Ghana’s natural resources are managed to benefit all our people, not just a few.”

The small-scale mining sector plays a significant role in our economy providing livelihoods for thousands of our people and contributing to the development of our nation. It has been both a bedrock of livelihood for many and a source of considerable environmental and safety concerns, as well as concerns about illegal mining activities.

Today, Mr Mahama said, the sector stands at a crossroads, and the decisions we make or fail to make and the actions we take or fail to take will determine its role in our nation’s future. As a nation, we cannot fail to recognise the significant contributions of small-scale mining to our economy. It is estimated to provide employment for over a million Ghanaians and serve as a crucial source of income in many of our rural areas.

However, the environmental impact of unregulated activities has been profound, negatively affecting our water bodies, land, and forests. I am dedicated to supporting the transformation of small-scale mining, and my vision in this regard is clear.

“My party, the NDC, and I aim to reform small-scale mining into a better, regulated, environmentally responsible, and economically viable sector. You all agree with me, ladies and gentlemen, that we can develop the sector into one that contributes to our economy in a sustainable manner while respecting our environmental heritage,” he stated.