The Asokwa suburb of Kumasi on Tuesday hosted hundreds of small scale miners who trooped from various mining districts in the Ashanti region to join in a protest march.
Clad in red and black apparel, the miners had planned to hit the streets in a demonstration dubbed “Yere bere”, to wit ‘we are suffering’. Their goal was to prevail on the government to lift a six month ban on smallscale mining.
“We are legitimate small-scale miners; we have acquired our licensing and we have also acquired loans from the banks and other financial institutions, so our investments need to be protected as well. That is why we are hitting the streets today,” said Kwabena Boakye, Secretary of the Small Scale Miners Association.
Ghanaians have been incensed at the wanton destruction of forests, lands, farms and water bodies as a result of irresponsible mining. Earlier this year, the government heeded public outcry and placed a six-month ban on all forms of small scale mining as part of a sustained fight against illegal mining. The action, spearheaded by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, has received wide-spread commendation.
Concerns of the miners
The small scale miners association claims members are also united against illegal mining, popular known as ‘galamsey’, with the set up of their own taskforce to instill sanity in the sector. But they are unhappy at the government’s failure to lift the six-month ban and allow them get back to work to earn an income. The miners are demanding government comes out clear on the roadmap to streamline small scale mining operations.
“It’s very painful that you pass through what the government demands; you follow the law to acquire license and as Ghanaians we cooperate with the government, but the government cannot protect our livelihood,” said Idris Adama, a local chairman of smallscale miners. He expects that State institutions like the Minerals Commission and Environmental Protection Agency are empowered to enforce the laws on mining and not frustrate local private investors.
As they converged, the miners chanted protest songs and held placards with various inscriptions depicting their stance against illegal mining, their loss of livelihood and quest to resume operations.
Policing agitated miners
The demonstrators had planned to hold a peaceful march from the Baba Yara Stadium to the Regional Coordinating Council to present a petition to the President on their plight. But managers of the sports stadium, at the last minute, rescinded its grant for the facility to be used as converging point. The agitated miners changed venue to a private facility along the Asokwa-Ahinsan road, directly opposite the Asokwa Divisional Police Headquarters. But the Police will not allow them to hit the streets.
Police Public Relations Officer, Juliana Obeng, explained the police had emergency security challenges which demanded postponement of the action. She also said “at the time of meeting yesterday, they told us that they are not expecting just 200, they were expecting between 5,000 and 10,000 people which for us was a bit alarming, so we needed to withdraw, go back and the do proper planning, come back to police not 200 people but between 5,000 and 10,00 people”
Some of the demonstrators made attempts to pour onto the streets but were prevailed upon by the leadership to revert. The police later tear gassed the crowd to disperse them from the venue and made some arrests. The miners have served notice their action will be extended nationwide if the government does not heed to their concerns.