Mr. Speaker, galamsey operation has become one of the main sources of conflict in the rural mining areas. Superficially, it does seem that illegal miners are a nuisance to the society, mining companies, the foreign investors and also to people in the communities. However, we must appreciate the fact that the incidence of these illegal miners is not all that simple. Most of them are school dropouts who have no skills and as such cannot be offered jobs by the big mining companies.
The plight of these school dropouts has been worsened by mechanization of both old and new mines, whether they are surface or underground mining. Faced with all kinds of frustrations and temptations, these young and able bodied but unskilled youth see the only option left to them to survive as joining the bandwagon of illegal mining. These young miners know the dangers and hazards in the profession but their mantra is “man must survive”. Certainly, it is a veritable problem but it cannot be wished away.
Mr. Speaker, I have visited some of these illegal miners and their operations in my constituency and even beyond. Hundreds of them have also contacted me individually and as groups. They complain about lack of job opportunities particularly in the very areas they come from.
The underlying factor, which propels them to engage in such hazardous enterprise, is the determination to conquer poverty. It is not difficult to observe the
marks of poverty in their homes, their immediate environment, on their families, on their children and even on their faces. They strongly believe that the very cement in the wall dividing their communities into the few “haves” and the majority “have- nots” are the mining companies, owned and directed by foreign investors.
In recent times, the cry from these people has been that the Government and the mining companies should assist them to become “legitimate miners”. They want the Government and the companies to allot them a piece of their concessions for their operations.
The number of i l legal miners dangerously wasting their talents in the country cannot be estimated exactly but in the Obuasi Municipality alone, we can roughly talk about 10,000 illegal miners operating in the area. I am sure we can ensure social justice if the Government and mining companies compromise and set out a well-defined area for their operation.
Mr. Speaker, legi t imizing the operations of these miners, will enable the Municipal/District authorities and the Revenue agencies to tax their incomes, and secondly, this will enable their activities to be properly monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mines Department. Thirdly, once identified, these miners could be trained to enhance the productive abilities. Fourthly, they could also be allowed to sell their gold winnings to the big mining companies, which I believe will help increase their volume of production.
Mr. Speaker, to translate these proposals into reality, the people will need basic training in health and safety, environmental management, as well as production and processing techniques. I