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Tackle illegal mining to save lives - FAO urges govt

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged the government to tackle the issue of illegal mining in the country to protect the environment and save lives. The organisation noted that ‘galamsey’ operators are polluting water bodies and the environment, thus putting the safety and lives of the people in danger.

FAO’s Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, Mr Abebe Haile Gabriel, said while the government intended to promote irrigation schemes, water from such facilities could be polluted, resulting in the production of toxic crops.

Mr Gabriel who stated these in an interview with the Daily Graphic  said the activities of illegal miners could develop into a public health issue.


While commending the government for taking bold steps to find a lasting solution to the menace, Mr Gabriel, who is also the FAO Representative to Ghana, said: “It must be regulated, if not stopped. It must be managed well. Ghana should benefit from the extraction of its natural resources, including mines, but it must be done in a manner that communities could benefit and not at the expense of the communities, the environment and the Ghanaian economy.”

“The environmental destruction is huge; the pollution of water, the diversion of water bodies from their main courses affect people downstream who depend on the water for irrigation and other uses. Its impact is negative, with social, environmental and economic consequences. The gold is exported by a very small group of people but the impact on water and food in the affected communities and Ghana as a whole could be dire and, therefore, needs to be regulated and managed properly. It is only the government that can do that. It is about the enforcement of regulations and the effectiveness of institutions. It is also about public accountability,” he added.


Across the country, illegal miners have taken over the country’s rivers, causing extensive pollution.          

In the Birim River, for instance, the Water Research Institute (WRI) has in two different researches found it to be polluted and contained levels of arsenic higher than the recommended limits of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA).

The water also contains suspended materials of 1000 milligrammes per litre (ml/l), which is higher than the 40ml/l allowed by the Water Resources Commission.

The Birim River takes its source from the Atiwa Forest range and has been identified by research scientists as one of the most polluted sources of water in the country because of the activities of illegal miners who use all kinds of chemicals in their trade.


In a research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI), there were traces of two heavy metals, arsenic and mercury, found in the Birim River that had been considered as harmful by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although the WRI found small traces of the dangerous chemicals in the river, the WHO observed that such quantities could still cause serious health problems, including a threat to the development of a child in the womb.

According to the WHO, arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form and water contaminated with the chemical was dangerous for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops.


On the ‘Planting for Food and Agriculture’ policy, Mr Gabriel said the organisation was currently developing technical cooperation agreement with the government to identify reliable seed sources, strengthen the capacity of extension officers and also share experiences with other countries.


He described the programme, modelled on the ‘Operation Feed Yourself campaign that was implemented by the erstwhile General I.K. Acheampong regime in the 1970s, as transformative