Religious leaders in the country have asked government to ban all small-scale mining popularly known as ‘galamsey’ until a comprehensive workable road map is established to ensure responsible mining in the country.
They said both legal and illegal small-scale mining had destroyed the biodiversity-plants, animal species and water bodies, which needed urgent restoration.
The religious leaders include the Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Office of the National Chief Imam and Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana, National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches.
The leaders, last week, made a field trip to some ‘galamsey’ sites in the Eastern region.
The tour was to enable them to assess the level of devastation caused by ‘galamsey’ activities in the communities to inform decision.
At a joint press conference in Accra, the religious leaders stated that they have noticed that many groups and companies hide behind a legal license to wreak havoc on the environment.
They called for an immediate national stakeholder’s dialogue under the auspices of religious leaders while the ban is in place to dialogue with all political parties, mining technocrats, the media, traditional leaders and all stakeholders to commit to a non-partisan National Strategy to sustainably deal with small-scale mining before the country sinks.
The immediate Past General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church, Reverend Professor Paul Frimpong-Manso, called for a week of fasting and prayers for a change of heart and for God’s mercy upon the nation.
He however commended some traditional leaders who have resisted galamsey practices in their territories for their courageous efforts.
Mr. Emmanuel Baba Mahama, who represented the Full Gospel Men’s Business Fellowship, called on government to swiftly arrest and prosecute all involved in galamsey activities without fear or favour, to serve as a deterrent to others.
“Those who desire to be rich at the expense of the future of our country should face the full rigours of the law,” he noted.
As part of strategies to fight against small-scale mining, he called on all religious leaders to wear red arm bands to show their deep concern for the destruction of the environment.
He also called for the arrest and immediate prosecution of any chief who permits galamsey activities within their jurisdiction for any reason.
As part of their fight against galamsey, the religious leaders have given Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) an ultimatum to ensure that polluted water bodies caused by illegal mining (galamsey) within their sphere are clean by June 30, 2023.
When asked if the deadline was feasible, he explained that it was a process and will surely yield results once the MMDCEs are committed to seeing a change.
The religious leaders stated that they are ready to mobilise their legal team to go to court on galamsey and have MMDCEs who have allowed such menace in their jurisdictions to be removed from office.
They indicated that they have realised that galamsey is preventing the youth from going to school.
“We call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to immediately report any child of school going age who is involved in galamsey activities in their communities to the appropriate authorities and also to their respective religious leaders,” they said.
They assured Ghanaians that they are committed to leading a sustained national moral crusade and public education in partnership with all other stakeholders in their various churches and mosques, across the country to appeal to the moral conscience of Ghanaians for a change of attitude towards the environment.
Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, who led the delegation from the office of the National Chief Imam, called on individuals, civil society groups, religious and traditional institutions and all Ghanaians to stand up to the challenge and work to preserve the environment from the menace of galamsey.
He admonished opinion leaders and the youth to speak up and report illegal mining activities in their localities to the relevant authorities.
He also urged pastors and other faith leaders to use their pulpits to preach against the evil of galamsey in the country.
“This is the time to put Ghana first, beyond political party affiliations and personal gains, in order to secure a better future for our children. This is the whole basis of sustainable development” he added.
Sheikh Aremeyaw indicated that the adverse impacts of galamsey are seriously undermining our collective national efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu , said the survival of the people is under threat due to the level of destruction, which included cutting down of cash crops, degrading of lands with chemicals such as mercury, chlorine, and cyanide.
“Our eco-system is being destroyed irreversibly; our soils are contaminated with poisonous chemicals, which are very difficult to clean,” he said.
Sheikh Shaibu urged all and sundry, especially politicians and the people involved in the activities to reflect on the national pledge, which encouraged all citizens to be faithful and loyal to Ghana in all their dealings.
Most Reverend Philip Naameh, Archbishop of Tamale said “We have visited a number of affected communities and have seen the level of devastation that the practice has caused our natural resources,” he said and asked government to swiftly arrest and prosecute all those involved without fear or favour.
“Those who desire to be rich at the expense of the future of our country should face the full rigors of the law,” he stressed.
Most Reverend Naameh said religious leaders were ready to facilitate a dialogue with all political parties, mining technocrats, the media, traditional leaders and all stakeholders to commit to a non- partisan National Strategy to sustainably deal with the issue.
Dr George Manful, a Retired Diplomate on Environment and Climate Change of United Nations Environment Programme, said it would take about 500 years for the restoration of the top soils.
“You go to clear vegetation in search of small ounce of gold in just few hours and it will take equivalent of 20 generation of Ghanaians to get only three inch of soil back. This must stop,” he said.
Nana Dwomoh Sarpong, Founder of Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies, said the justification that people engaged in illegal mining due to high unemployment rate was not justified.
“Will you support the claim that hungry people should steal to survive? Being jobless does not mean one should destroy the environment that supports our existence,” he said.
He said the advancement in science and technology should be used to make life easy and protect nature and not to destroy it, noting that it would take 70 years for the chemicals that had leaked into the underground water to clear.
Nana Sarpong alleged that the problem was lingering due to the involvement of high political actors from major political parties.
“This small scale-mining is a life and dead issue. The problem is the politicians who fail to adhere to the advice of technical people…Technocrats are afraid to talk because they do not want to lose their jobs,” he said.
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