The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has tasked the media to name and shame politicians, influential people and others suspected of financing illegal mining, notoriously known as galamsey, in the country.

Mr. Samuel Abu Jinapor said he will be more than willing and ready to take down such names for the necessary action, reiterating his commitment to the fight against the menace.

Speaking at a meeting with some selected editors and senior journalists on Monday, this week, in Accra, Mr. Jinapor said, “You say some of the people in influential positions, who? Mention names, point them out and when you bring the information to our attention and we don’t act on it, then a lot of questions can be raised.”

“You want to say that regional commander of Ghana Police is neck-deep in this mining operation, the information A B C say so, the regional chairman is neck-deep, the minister here is involved, the DCE there and so on and so forth.  Give us those information because as I said from the beginning I have no interest, absolutely no interest, in this enterprise,” he challenged the media.

According to him, he keeps hearing “influential people (maybe on one occasion, one person is mentioned) but in many cases you don’t get anything more than the talk about influential people.”

The meeting with the senior editors is one of several others by the sector ministry to solicit views, suggestions and support from stakeholders in the fight against galamsey.

He indicated that, “it is not sufficient for us to just talk about it and leave it at the level of talk, and leave it the level of speculation. And I think this comes squarely at your level of remit as journalists. As investigative journalists, it is time to begin to concretize some of these suspicions.”

Mr. Jinapor said this can be achieved by investigating broadly and in detail to ensure sources, findings and claims are well grounded and credible so that such information can be followed to logical conclusion.

He believes this will be some of the ways through which the fight against illegal mining will be fought and won.

The minister said that, often, wild allegations are bandied around in the media, but when it comes to hardcore evidence or substantiating them, then people are found wanting, thus crippling the efforts by authorities.

While admitting there may be some political actors and influential personalities behind the illegal act, Mr. Jinapor insisted there may also be relatively unknown people massively financing the menace that nobody is paying attention to.

He argued however that, the usual attention on political actors is a serious misconception.

He went on, “But the notion also that only political actors tend to be involved in this business or enterprise, I think it is a misconceived notion.

“The people we talk about who are supposed to be so-called big men in Accra who are financing or sponsoring this menace may be pastors, you will be surprised to know that may be chiefs, they may be opposition leaders, they may be government officials, they may be political actors, they may be all kinds of people, they may be foreigners

“You know these foreigners work in cohort with local people. So, this is how it works,” he said.

Mr. Jinapor also wants the media to dedicate ample time and resources to investigate galamsey cases and also follow through cases of people arrested for the operation and report every stage of their prosecutions until closure is brought to galamsey cases.

He said, “I don’t make this to shift blame or to say that the part of government is not working properly, no!

“I make the point to illustrate the complexity of the efforts and the need for you, media people, to shed light and keep an eagle eye on not just the police, or the military, the judiciary, the chiefs or DCE, but on all of us, myself inclusive, in the loop and then also, who watches the watchman which they say.”

He said it will be “foolish” on his part to call for massive support from the media and be thwarting the course by doing things that are contrary.

He maintained that, even though sometimes people question commitment of authorities, but, yet, as far as he is concerned, neither the President nor he has interest in the sector, aside from leading the charge to nip the situation in the bud.

“I want to give you that assurance, I can say that at least for the President, myself and for the key actors in the Ministry, we have absolutely no interest in this industry. Whatever we all come up with and conclude on as a course of action or the way forward, you can be rest assured that, that exactly will be what we will pursue and do so with integrity,” he noted.

The minister said the commitment of government has never been in doubt, citing a previous action, where excavators belonging to Kate Gyamfua, national women organizer of his party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), were set ablaze after they were allegedly used for illegal mining.

Mr. Jinapor, who is a first-time minister and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Damongo constituency in the Savanna Region, said he is more concerned because anything contrary to what his mandate is will go a long way to jeopardize his career and legacy.

“It will be very foolish on my part to begin to have interest because at the end of the day, it is about my own legacy, my own career. I am not going to allow some few Cedis here and there, to tarnish my career and destroy myself; I won’t do that, so my point is that, we need to go beyond that and give information.

“As for the political business, it will happen much later in the course of time, but, for the time being, we are here as representatives and protecting the national interest, and I want you to be absolutely confident on that point because everybody I have interacted with, there is suspicion and this anxiety about commitment.”

He continued, “Me, I am fully committed and the one I take instruction from, the President, I am one million percent certain that he is more committed than I am even. He has no interest in this matter, he wants this matter to be dealt with and dealt with ruthlessly.”

He further said of the President, “He brought the idea of decommissioning excavators and some of the dramatic, wild thoughts you have, he also seems to entertain some of those thoughts, that is how committed he is.”

Earlier in the meeting, the minister took journalists through the various steps and measures government is rolling out ostensibly to curtail illegal mining.

He said the efforts have been on two fronts, namely the reformative regime, which includes the Licensing, Mercury free gold processing machines, Concept of Community Mining, Collaboration with Small Scale Mining Associations, Permit and leases as well as sensitizing programmes. The other is the enforcement of law, which includes the commissioning of Operation Halt I and II and others.

After accepting the call, some of the journalists also requested that government makes available some form of support, such as a reporting fund, to facilitate their work.

Others challenged the government not to sit in Accra or the ministry and design what it thinks will serve the interest of the people indulging in galamsey.

They argued that the government failed when it started the fight on that path, saying they need to go to the people and ask them what their needs are and what will make them quit the act.

Some also asked that government designs very practicable and workable alternative livelihoods for operators.

Before this, the minister met with civil society groups, the Media Coalition Against Illegal Small Scale Mining and other relevant bodies.

Source: Anchorghana

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