Fool’s Gold

Ghana Gold is a documentary you MUST see! It was produced by Anas Amereyaw a Ghanaian journalist whose unstinting courage deserves an award. In this well produced film, Anas takes his lens to the underbelly of Ghana’s illegal surface mining operation - Galamsey. In sophisticated mining, custom machines and explosives are used to extract minerals deep beneath the earth’s surface. In galamsey, however, people use shovels to manually dig into the ground to search for minerals. The documentary vividly shows how surface mining has ravaged verdant fields and grossly polluted pristine waters.

The farmlands are now barren, the water is no longer drinkable and people are losing their lives. But the business of galamsey is so lucrative that even the Chinese have migrated to Ghana to help us rape our land and clog our lakes. On November 15th, the Ghana Police arrested 24 Chinese men for operating galamseys. On December 2nd 2011, two illegal miners were buried alive when the pit they had dug collapsed over them. In parts of the Eastern region, the situation has gotten so bad that the Ghana Water Company was forced to shutdown its treatment plant. Unfortunately, as the price of gold continues to soar, illegal mining is bound to take over the vegetation of rural areas. More people will be buried alive and the entire ecosystem that produces rains will be disrupted. Meanwhile, a select few will get fatter, shinier, richer…

After viewing this documentary, I started doing some research about the proliferation of galamsey in Ghana. It broke my heart to see how Ghanaians are eagerly stripping indispensable resources we depend on for short term profits. But it is hard not to be lured into this trade, especially in areas where life is particularly unfair to labour whether skilled or not. In this harsh economy, galamsey provides ready cash. As meager as it is, it pays more than they would earn as petty traders or apprentice. Unfortunately, the hand that feeds them, is also poisoning them.

So what are our traditional and elected leaders doing about this? Not much. And this is what is fueling the defiance of the local galamsey operators. They resent the fact that major mining companies such as Goldfields Damang has reneged on their promise to offer them alternative land after they were evicted in 2007. They feel neglected by a corrupt system that rewards chiefs, executives and government officials whilst they have to struggle to feed their children. There is not a easy solution that will make everyone happy. However it is imperative that galamsey activities be stopped. Our land, our lakes, our people, our future hang by a thread. How can we rein them in? These are the pressing issues that Ghanaians should be discussing as we move into an election year.

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