The Lands and Natural Resources Minister has issued a three-week ultimatum to illegal miners to halt their activities as government steps up the fight against illegal mining popularly called ‘galamsey’.

John Peter Amewu warns that all illegal miners who fail to stop their activities should be prepared to face the full rigours of the law.

The discussion on clamping down on the activities of illegal miners has been taken up a notch higher as the dire consequences of their acts stare the country in the face.

Experts at the Ghana Water Company have warned that the country risks importing water for consumption unless illegal mining activities stop. They say the spate of water pollution in Ghana is approaching alarming levels.

The drying water bodies

In the Brong Ahafo region, residents are bearing the brunt of activities of galamsey operators as their actions have silted the Tano River causing it to dry up for the first time in 40 years.

Despite the long period of drought in the region, the residents believe the increasing activities of galamsey operators significantly contributed to the siltation of the river which is the source of water supply to homes.

The Ghana Water Company (GWC) in the regional capital Sunyani, has had to shut down its water treatment plant which drew its water mainly the Tano River.

Many communities have resorted to fetching water from dug-outs and wells for domestic use.

Rivers and other water bodies in the Central region have been under siege through the activities of galamsey operators. Farm lands that hitherto provided produce from cash crops and other valuable food crops have been destroyed and sold for a pittance to the ‘galamseyers’.

According to the Accra West Regional Director of GWC, Ing Peter Deveer, illegal mining activities (galamsey) have badly polluted water bodies in the country resulting in the excessive cost of treatment.

Today, there are over 663 million people worldwide living without safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources and coping with the health implications of using contaminated water.

However, it appears government’s efforts to fight the galamsey menace would suffer stiff opposition from areas where the practice is rife.

‘Give residents an alternative livelihood’ – MP demands

Some officials have warned of a total system collapse if government goes ahead to ban the activities of illegal miners.

One of them is Member of Parliament (MP) for Upper Denkyira West Nsonwah Gyan who says galamsey has become the main source of livelihood for his people.

He argues that any attempt to flush them out without the provision of an alternative source of livelihood will lead to serious economic rift and an escalation of social vices among residents.

Joy News’ Central regional correspondent Richard Kwadwo Nyarko reports that in the Upper Denkyira East and West Constituency, it is as if everyone one is involved in the practice as school children abandon school in search of gold.

The residents have vowed to resist any act that would interfere with their galamsey activities irrespective of the damage to the environment.

Mr Gyan is cautioning government on its decision on galamsey activities arguing there are about 10,000 people who are into galamsey so a second look must be taken the intended flushing out of those involved in it.

“This galamsey is employing a lot of people who are the able-bodied young men who are taking care of their family, so flushing them out is something that would bring untold hardship to them.”

He noted that during the Mahama-administration, when a similar operation to flush out illegal miners was embarked on, kilos and bars of gold were taken from the miners but they were never accounted for to the government.

To this end, the MP said he sees no need for government to waste taxpayers’ money on something that would not bring good returns.

He, however, admitted that “when you go to Upper Denkyira West, which is the capital, the water bodies are polluted, I must be frank but the needed education must be done for the galamseyers to know their left from their right.”

Nevertheless, the Denkyira Development Association says the MP’s stance would only help to destroy the environment further.

They want government to open factories and other employment sources in the galamsey areas to save the lands, rivers and other water bodies.