Western Regional Minister, Dr. Kweku Afriyie, has said the negative social impacts of illegal mining were under-reported in communities worst affected by the menace.
According to him, the phenomenon has not only destroyed the environment, but also led to an increase in the number of persons abusing drugs.
He also said the exposure to mercury, which is a substance used in illegal mining has related health implications.
The Western Region is one of the hardest hit when it comes to the menace of illegal mining. Some revered traditional rivers, which, hitherto, were clean for domestic use such as River Pra and Ankobra, are heavily polluted by colour, and by the amount of hard metals leached in them.
Some rain forest cover has already been depleted while cocoa and other farmlands have been destroyed.
These physical effects triggered the crackdown on galamsey led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s government.
During an inspection visit by the Country Director of the World Bank in the Western Region, Dr Kweku Afriyie, said fighting the physical effects of galamsey does not mitigate the social effects of the phenomenon.
“People talk about the environmental degradation, but I have had the opportunity to witness first hand somebody who is addicted to cocaine in Sefwi Bekwai. He came to me as a practicing physician. In rural setting like this, how did they get addicted to cocaine? It was introduced by these galamseyers. I also saw an increase in HIV cases in the Amenfi Areas.”
…There are even unreported murders because they attack some miners to get money from those who have the gold. I’m afraid to say that these murders include even foreigners which go unreported,” the minister said.
Despite the ban on all forms of small-scale mining in the country, major rivers in the region continue to remain polluted. There are also reported cases of the return of illegal miners in areas where Operation Vanguard had previously carried out swoops.