Ghana lost a whopping $2.3 billion in 2016 through ‘galamsey’ activities.
Isaac Karikari, a Director at the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry, who made the revelation, said the losses represent royalties and taxes the illegal miners did not pay to the state.
Making a presentation at an interactive session with heads of African Diplomatic Missions in Accra yesterday, he announced that the laws on mining would be strictly enforced after the period of sensitisation was over and the provision of alternative jobs was provided.
To effectively manage the ‘galamsey’ menace in the country, he noted that the Ministry has instituted a 5-year Multilateral Mining Integrated project aimed at effectively solving the problem.
Taking cognizance of the many initiatives that have failed in the past, Mr Karikari said the ministry is adopting a Project Management Approach to dealing with the menace.
This approach would include, offering alternative livelihoods for people currently engaged in ‘galamsey’ by organising them into cooperatives, create sustained awareness of the devastating effect of the activities of ‘galamsey’ and ensuring strict enforcement of existing regulation in the mining sector.
As part of the new enforcement regime, persons engaged in illegal mining would be arrested, prosecuted and jailed.
Karikari said foreigners, who engage in illegal mining, could be imprisoned for a term of 20 years, while a Ghanaian could be imprisoned for five years.
Special courts would be set up by the Attorney-General to deal specifically with ‘galamsey’ issues.
The interactive session was hosted by Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botcwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration, to share thoughts on strengthening and advancing relations with all foreign missions and their respective countries.
It was used to brief the Missions on government foreign policy and other commitments that Ghana had with countries and entities like UN, AU and ECOWAS.
Government also used the opportunity to discuss the crucial issue of illegal mining with the missions and sought their support to end it.
John Peter Amewu, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources called on all African foreign Missions in Ghana to support the fight against illegal mining, known as galamsey, to save Ghana from the current environmental destruction.
He also urged the missions to educate their citizens who wish to engage in the mining business in the country to get the right authorisation and mine in a more sustainable way.
According to him, the government was not anti-mining but was worried about the devastation of farm lands and pollution of water bodies as a result of illegal mining.
He said the government was therefore taking measures to curb the illegal activity, emphasising that small-scale mining was reserved for only Ghanaian citizens.
“The government believes in the private sector participation in businesses, but we are totally against the extent of degradation and pollution of the land and water bodies. And so, together as neighbours we need to come together and deal with the situation,” Mr Amewu said.
Mr Amewu said if the regional block did not assist the country to curb the menace, very soon it would affect other neighbouring countries and roll over to more countries, as in the case of Cote d’Ivoire.
He mentioned citizens of Mali, Nigeria, Togo and Ghanaians as well as some Chinese, among others as those who had over the period engaged in illegal mining and thus causing the destruction to the environment.
He said most of the 230,000 kilometre square land area of the country had been affected by galamsey activities in all eight out of the 10 regions of the country.
The Minister said there were very good mining laws in the country but there had been difficulty in implementing them.
However, government under its newly adopted five-year Multi Mining Integrated Project (MMIP), would implement the law and also provide other alternative livelihoods for miners.