The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, has proposed the burning of excavators seized from illegal miners as a deterrent to others engaged in the menace.
The former Lands and Natural Resources Minister, under the Kufuor government, explained that this was the best way to reduce illegal mining activities, since other approaches, until now, have failed to end the menace.
Speaking to Umaru Sanda Amadu on Citi TV‘s Face to Face, Dr Afriyie, who is also the MP for Sefwi Wiawso, argued that the practice of using excavators seized from illegal miners for other projects should not be countenanced.
He suggested that it would be better for the government to pay any fines accrued from destroying the excavators immediately than allow them to be reused.
“We must work within the law. That’s why I support the idea of the excavators being destroyed immediately. They should not bring the excavators to town. Using the excavators for other projects is where the corruption starts. We are in a country of laws ao if you seize them now and put them at the Sefwi Wiawso Regional Office, they will bring a court injunction. You should know you cannot use it [for other purposes] because of litigation. I have advised the government to destroy [the excavators] on site and let the owners take the government to court. If we lose [the case], we [will] pay,” he said.
He cited the burning of rhino horns and elephant tusks in Kenya in addressing the activities of poachers saying “when you [engage in] poaching and the government [discovers] a room of rhino horns and elephant tusks, they burn it.”
Dr Kwaku Afriyie believes the destruction of weapons seized from criminals or unauthorised users should be replicated with excavators in the fight against galamsey.
“When we [government] get small arms like AKA 47 why don’t we distribute it to the military but burn it? We have tried all sort of things [against galamsey] but they don’t work. This is not the government’s policy but my personal policy. If they get the excavators, they should burn them in the forest. If we burn about four excavators, the rest will come and negotiate. I have seen it before with the chainsaw operators; when you seize them, people get around the law and when the law catches you, you will have to release it.”
He admitted that the NPP had suffered setbacks due to its fight against galamsey but he was ready to put his seat on the line to ensure the fight is successful
“If I do not [contest] again or the NPP in Sefwi Wiawso should lose, so be it. We are willing to lose the seat because we are fighting against galamsey,” he said.
On the issue of river bodies being polluted, he proposed that Ghana should ban the use of excavators in small-scale mining since its introduction has led to water pollution.
He further explained that a return to the use of man-powered tools could help limit the environmental degradation which is aggravated by the use of excavators.
“Formerly, the technology was pickaxe, mattocks, and shovels. Their capacity to cause damage is smaller, just that, those pools of water were death traps to children. I think the rationalization of small scale mining [in 1989 by Rawlings] led to the use of excavators, which was the beginning of all our troubles. If we take the excavators out, the water will be clear. Excavators, sham fines, and washing machines are the critical tools that we need to burn. This is also a preventive measure.”