An illegal miner in the Eastern region says he feels betrayed by the governing New Patriotic Party which he supported to come to power.
Kojo – not his real name – who has been involved in ilegal mining, known locally as galamsey, for the past seven years, claims that the NPP in opposition promised to regularise the operations of galamsey - a promise he and other miners bought and decided to vote for the New Patriotic Party during the 2016 general elections.
He, therefore, feels deceived that after winning the elections, President Akufo-Addo has waged a war against illegal mining.
In an interview on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Kojo said “We are highly disappointed in this government…the president promised us that when he comes he is not going to ban galamsey but all of a sudden he has done a u- turn on us.”
Illegal mining and the lack of strong regulations in the mining sector is having devastating effects on Ghana’s water bodies.
The Ghana Water Company, earlier this year, had to shut down its Tanoso treatment plant in the Brong Ahafo region due to the drying up of the River Tano which has been attributed to the activities of illegal miners in the area.
The Ankobrah River in the Western Region, Pra and Brim, both in the Eastern region have been muddied due to persistent mining in them.
Officials of the Ghana Water Company have served notice that the country might import water from its neighbours by 2020 if something is not done about the illegal activity.
Alarmed by the repeated reports of destruction caused by the illegal miners, the Lands and Forestry Minister, John Peter Amewu has launched a campaign to bring the situation under control.
But the illegal miners are not happy about the development. Although some have agreed to halt the activity and allow the government to find more structured ways of doing it, some are not ready to stop.
For Kojo, it is never true that the activities of illegal mining are polluting river bodies.
He said none of the miners he knows uses chemicals in their mining activities, therefore the harmful effects the activity is said to cause is “a lie, because nobody puts chemicals in the water.”
He said banning illegal mining will be unfair to the four million miners who depend on the activity to fend for their families.
“We all know that it is not good, but if the government helped us to do it in a better way or put measures on it, that will be better than saying it should be banned.”
He said even if the government insists on banning the activity, it should first create opportunities for the many jobless youth.
“If Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo wants to do the right thing, then he should first fulfil his one district, one factory promise.”
In a response to how government’s decision to clamp down on the activity is being received by the miners, Kojo said it is causing a lot of outrage amongst galamseyers.
He said because most of these miners are breadwinners of their families, they are uncertain of their future after illegal mining is banned.
“Most of them are crying, their families are also crying,” he said.
He, however, said the miners will get back at the NPP during the 2020 elections if President Akufo-Addo goes ahead with the plan.
“They think they are in power today so they can take our food from our mouth. We are making plans for 2020 and no miner will vote for them. I will not vote for them and my family will not for them either,” he said.