1. Please amend the relevant sections of our laws. Create special Mining Courts in the various mining hotbeds and fix them with exclusive jurisdiction to try only cases involving illegal mining and the unlawful export of natural minerals (from Ghana).
2. The sentencing regime should be tougher – 25 years minimum for a first-time offender. A second-time offender gets life. The current minimum is 15 years. This is not good enough and is hardly (if ever) enforced.
3. The trials should be swift but just – capable of being started within 14 days upon the arrest of a suspect and taking at least 7 days to secure either a conviction or acquittal.
4. The Mining Courts should also be the tools for severely punishing public and private officials who ‘import’ foreign illegal miners into the country through false documentation, misrepresentation and the rest. 25 years for a first-time offender will be tough enough.
5. Also, the Mining Courts should receive and try those corrupt state and private officials who have made it their business to continually steal (or support those who steal) our earnings from the mines. A first-time offender should get a life sentence.
6. In all cases, safe convictions should also lead to the lawful seizure of all tainted movable and immovable assets belonging to offenders. It should be prudent to outsource these cases to a well-resourced team of brilliant private legal practitioners to prosecute, leaving State Attorneys to concentrate on other crimes and offences.
7. The reason? Endemic illegal mining activities and the resulting decimation of both our water bodies and farmlands threaten our collective survival as a people. These are real and present threats demanding robust executive, legislative and judicial responses.
8. Meanwhile, a paradigm/policy shift should ensure that at least a third of our national earnings from lawful mining activities go directly into positively transforming the communities hosting these mines. Their schools, hospitals, roads, water systems, markets etc should reflect a decent dose of the enormous mineral wealth in the belly of the lands they are blessed with.
9. This way, we will sustainably develop these communities, extensively open them up by strategically diversifying their economies to create alternative sources of livelihood for the millions of our youth who have always seen and or continue to see illegal mining and smuggling of our minerals out of Ghana as the only things capable of setting a table before them.
10. For example, every mining hub must have a state-of-the-art factory or plant where minerals like gold and diamond can be turned into first-class finished goods for both export and local ‘consumption.’ The prices should be competitive and there should be Jewellery Malls built in the major towns adjoining these mining communities to attract Jewellery-loving shoppers (both foreign and domestic) into these towns. The export of raw minerals is not helping us. The key is in refining the gold + cutting the diamonds in Ghana. With the requisite progressive leadership and dedication to the course of transformation, Ghana can achieve in a few years what we have not been able to do after centuries of mining our lands.
11. Arguably, and based on current evidence, the often-repeated gung-ho approach — sending armed soldiers to our forests to fight the menace of galamsey — (without more) seems not to have done enough to conclusively deter those who have resolved to destroy our arable lands and dry up our rivers and lakes. A new approach is needed.
12. For all or most of the above recommendations to work, FEARLESS ENFORCEMENT of every black letter of the relevant laws today will be the key to preventing epidemic thirst, famine, joblessness and an uprising tomorrow. Thank you!
By Richard Dela Sky (rD.s)