Following the Government’s resolve to stamp out illegal mining, also known as ‘Galamsey’ it has launched “Operation Vanguard” (OV) to deal with the symptoms of the problem. As tempting as it may seem to support the Government on this, something tells me we could be headed in the wrong direction. Let us be clear that Ghana is not at war.
The first phase of Operation Vanguard (OV) involved the deployment of 400 security personnel comprising both the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and the Police Service. Operation Vanguard contingents were sent to cover the Ashanti Region, Eastern Region and Western Region. There are plans to send other contingents to other regions plagued by galamsey.
The second phase involves another team comprising personnel from the Ghana Navy and Marine Police to provide continuous monitoring of the major rivers and water bodies until illegal activities have been completely eradicated.
Operation Vanguard suggests that the Government is ramping up the fight against galamsey in order to ensure total compliance. Professor Frimpong Boateng, Minister for Environment, Science Technology and Innovation stressed that the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Illegal mining put together by the government “is ready and willing to do everything within its powers to halt galamsey.”
Undoubtedly, galamsey constitutes a major problem in our society. Since the NPP came to power, it has taken measures aimed at bringing illegal mining, under control or stopped completely by ensuring that ‘unauthorised mining pits’ are permanently closed.
It appears that as a people, we have not learned the lessons of the past. When did galamsey start? Let us go back to the 1983-1989 period when Ghana was the darling of the IMF and World Bank, implementing structural adjustment policies. In order to please the IMF, cocoa farmlands were sold haphazardly to foreign mining companies at cheap prices. Mining was promoted to the disadvantage of food and agriculture, thereby setting in motion a process that is now coming to bite us so sharply. As usual, and in circumstances like this, we have opted for the knee jerk reaction of sending in the armed services.
The trend of deploying soldiers to deal with civil matters is a worrying development. Ghana is not at war, the youth digging and dying in galamsey pits are not our enemies. At this early stage let me pose the question whether it is permissible for foreign companies to poison our water, degrade our eco systems, and remain protected while our youth face the might of the Ghana Army and Police?
History has taught us that when any government starts pampering one set of soldiers, the others could feel resentful. The government itself has said that ‘operation vanguard’ forces will be accommodated, fed and provided with monthly allowances. As these forces are being pampered, what happens to their colleagues still sitting in the barracks with no additional source of income?
Secondly, what is being done to ensure that the OV forces operate within the law in their interaction with the illegal miners? How do we ensure that some rogue elements do not infiltrate the OV forces and collude with illegal miners and other foreign entities? It has happened before in other West African countries.