Ghana is endowed with a lot of mineral resources. Common among these mineral resources are diamond and gold. These mineral resources can be mined in many places across the country.
Ways of extracting the gold
There are three main ways of extracting gold. Firstly, by digging deep down into the earth to reach the rocks. These rocks have gold deposits in them. Secondly, by removing the surface of the earth to reach the rocks.
In addition to the aforementioned ways of getting the gold from the earth, the sand covering the gold can equally be washed in the rivers. As soon as the sand is washed off the rocks, the gold is vividly, seen.
The traditional practice in times past was the use of hoes and shovels to remove the sand in rivers. The sand is washed, to get the gold. However, illegal ways of getting the gold from the soil have recently been the order of the day. No wonder therefore, that the current government of Ghana has declared a war on illegal mining activities, since it took office in 2017 and has recently, reinforced the fight vigorously, by sending armed soldiers to get rid of offenders.
The illegal activity
The illegal mining activity to extract gold and other mineral resources, popularly known as ‘Galamsey’ is on the increase and growing in alarming proportion in Ghana. Those who engage in such act have been identified as young people, sometimes resident in and around the communities and towns in which the typically mining companies are based; thus, making their actions, illegal.
The word, ‘Galamsey’, simply means, ”Gather and Sell”. The natives of a mining community known as Prestea-Hemang in the Western region of Ghana, first corrupted the phrase, ”Gather and Sell”, an expression used by the earliest foreigners to the land, to mean, ”Galamsey”. To ”gather and sell”, literally, mean to collect the grains of gold and sell.
Nowadays, people mobilize heavy duty equipment and machines to dig and wash the gold stones and sand in rivers. They also use dangerous chemicals in the process, thereby polluting the water which the people drink and kill the fishes with the chemical. Farmlands have also been destroyed to a large extend.
Under Ghana’s ‘illegal mining law’, it is an offence for those who engage in such activities to dig on land granted to mining companies as concession. Most young people, including children, are notable for engaging in such act with the idea of getting “quick money”. The men are known to be doing the digging while the children are also seen at the pit running errand. Most of the time, they stand the risk of involvement in serious accidents and exposed to mercury poisoning emanating from the crude processing method used for extracting the ore.
Apart from the negative effects of ‘galamsey’ activities on the lives of the youth involved in this illegal activity, it also poses more negative effects on our natural resources, including land and water bodies across the country. The idea of ‘getting rich quick’ has been the motivation behind the children engaging in the illegal mining activities in these communities. Most of these young people do not place value in education; thus, risking their lives to be involved in it.
Report of findings on ‘galamsey’
The Daily Guide, published a report on 4th May, 2015; with the headline: “Pupils Abandon School For Galamsey”. It revealed that, ‘galamsey’ has become the biggest factor hindering children of school-going age from enjoying the right to education. Many of these children abandoned classrooms for full-scale illegal mining activities with the expectation of making ‘quick money’ despite the risks involved.
Furthermore, the enrollment figures in most basic schools in mining communities according to the report, were sharply on the decrease because, most pupils had suspended their plans to pursue formal education for ‘cash’. These children, ignore the negative impact of this illegal mining activity.
It might interest all to know that, the existence of the illegal mining activities has reached a stage, where even potential ‘BECE candidates’ , who are about writing examinations that will guarantee their graduation into secondary school, abandon the exams for ‘galamsey’. Out of 253 who registered for the examination in 2015, only 248 candidates were present as the four male students were said to have abandoned school to join their colleagues at the ‘Galamsey’ sites.
It is ironically, a paradox to note that, while some young people wish and dream to become good, responsible and educated leaders of tomorrow in our society, some others, have not yet realized the significance of education; thus, resulting in low attendance in most schools in these mining communities and low participation in educational activities in the mining communities.
In conclusion, one will call on the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Ministry of Education, stakeholders, religious bodies and corporate bodies and other non-governmental organizations to organize public education in these mining communities to educate the young people on the need to make education, a priority.