Under the use of command and control laws, forest guards for instance, are mandated by law to shoot and kill anyone who enters the forest unlawfully. But the questions we ask are, has the use of forest guards stopped the extent of deforestation in our country? Again, has the use of land guards stopped the massive land degradation and various land encroachment we witness in this country?
It is because we had failed to tackle the underlining cause of this problem! The question we ask is, what motivates these our brothers and sisters into this business? The underlining cause is POVERTY! People engaged in illegal mining activities are solely driven by survival and livelihood motives. Unlike large scale mines that basically exist to make big profits, small scale miners are not there to make profits. For individuals and their families, participation in artisanal mining is partly motivated by the need to generate cash to purchase some basic necessities of everyday life.
Under these conditions of massive unemployment and poverty in Ghana, where most alternative work involves low or no pay, participation in small scale mining, legal or not, has become a primary means of survival for many. Again, small scale mines provide an important source of income for distant communities in mining areas as well as an engine for small business growth. As a consequence, regards for policies and environmental regulations become secondary to these miners. These artisans will therefore go to every extent to exploit the natural resource no matter the dangers the activity poses to them; and level of regulations, gravity of sanctions, ban and military tactics you put in place against them.
What policy makers need be doing is to look at measures that address the root cause of poverty and what motivates these individuals into this business, and recreate alternative livelihood programmes for these individuals. Take all of them, give them jobs! Ask them what they wish to do, put them on training in these jobs for some period of time and at the end of their training give them some sort of capital to establish their own jobs!
Another suggestion: those in the sector with employable qualifications such as those with certificates, diplomas and degrees, get them and give them employment in their respective and various capacities. I know quite a number of even first class honors degree holders, very good students, and brilliant guys engaging in this business.
When we do these, we are indeed addressing the root cause of poverty and what causes these individuals to engage in galamsey! When these individuals get jobs that get give them regular sources of income, their appetite to engage in illegal mining activities, which they are very much aware is dangerous to their health and have consequent repercussions on our environmental resources will reduce drastically.
In my next series when there is time, I will take us to the economic analysis and contributions of this small scale mining to our economic growth.