Authors: David Ackah, PhD.
Faculty of Competency-Base Training & Learning
Institute of Project Management Professionals
Small-scale mining was once a respected traditional vocation. When the government officially legalised the practice in the late 1980s, it brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted mining concessions to peasants. The process was cumbersome and slow and therefore forced many people to mine illicitly. Today, illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey,’ has become a major source of livelihood for persons living around legal mining communities, mainly due to the continuous rise of the price of the commodity on the world market. The activities of illegal small-scale mining operators have been identified as the major source of water pollution in mining communities, especially in the Western Region. At Nkroful in the Ellembelle District and Wassa Amenfi East District, both in the Western Region, activities of small-scale miners are a major problem, threatening the health of the people living in those communities who depend on the polluted water-bodies for their domestic use. However, the district agencies whose duty it is to monitor and enforce the laws do not have adequate capacity to enforce the laws, and have therefore failed in the execution of their monitoring and supervision roles. Indeed, the environmental effects and other demerits of small-scale mining operations prima facie look overwhelming. But a holistic and dispassionate look at the real issue might tempt one to side with the sentiments of the small-scale miners. It is important however to distinguish between the licenced small-scale miners, who have been licenced under the small scale Gold Mining Law (PNDCL 218) now replaced by sections 81 to 99 of the new Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) and the illegal operators, popularly referred to as galamsey operators. The small-scale miners have no mining equipment that will prevent water-bodies from getting polluted, yet the Minerals Commission continues to issue operating licences to them. Mining experts describe small-scale mining as being similar to illegal mining due to the method both miners use to extract their gold. Experts further state that galamseyers are people who do gold mining independently for mining companies using crude methods such as digging pits, tunnels and sluices with their hands.
Keywords: Galamsey, Gather & Sell, Illegal Mining