Home > Education, Mining > Galamsey Mining at Nagodi: its Blessings and Disadvantages

Galamsey Mining at Nagodi: its Blessings and Disadvantages

When Maxwell Kparib entered Junior High school form three, he was full of hope and dreams for his future. Like most other boys his age, he saw education as the only opportunity to escape the poverty that was prevalent among people in his community- Nagodi- which is situated near Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. But after bracing the Basic School Certificate Examinations to gain admission into senior high school, Maxwell could see his dreams gradually grinding to a halt. It was clear that his parents, who were peasant farmers, had come to their wits end and could no longer pay his school fees. Their subsistence farming activities, which was based on rain fed agriculture due to the absence of irrigation facilities could barely provide enough food for the family of 13 children during the long dry season characteristic of the Savanna climate, not to talk of other expenses like school fees.
And then luck struck! Gold. Yes, there was gold in Nagodi. An old miner who had worked in the Prestea and Tarkwa mines had come back home to settle and chanced upon the old shafts of an abandoned mine in Nagodi. According to history, mining activities were carried out in the area by some white settlers who abandoned the mine during the Second World War. With his knowledge about mining, the old miner knew instinctively that there was still gold in the abandoned mine. His revelation was received with excitement and enthusiasm by the young men of the community and with his instruction and advice. galamsey mining took off in Nagodi. This was in the early 1980’s and the practice has persisted up to this day.
Maxwell was one of the ‘early birds’ who run to mine the gold at the old mine. “I was a day student at Kongo Senior High school so I decided to use my weekends to mine for gold in order to pay for my school fees”, he said. Maxwell’s diligence paid off and he managed to see himself through senior high school. However, he was not pleased with his grades. Undoubtedly, the time spent prospecting for gold during weekends and holidays which should have been invested in his studies had taken its toll on his academic performance. Undaunted, Maxwell re-wrote his examinations, once again with assistance from money earned through galamsey mining and this time he was successful. Now a Marketing student at the Tamale Polytechnic and a reformed ‘galamsey boy’, Maxwell says, “I could not have made it through my education without indulging in galamsey activities”.
While ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining activities have often made headlines for their destruction of the environment and the danger they pose to the lives of those engaged in it, very little investigation has been done to find out why people engage in it in spite of its dangers.
It is clear that galamsey activities thrive among the rural poor, the unemployed and communities with no alternative income generating activities. For some like Maxwell, it is the only way to pay for a decent education and for communities like Nagodi, it is the only way to raise the needed capital to invest in facilities and equipment that make life worth living and to raise enough money to buy food during the long lean season.
“People are now using mechanized water and paying monthly bills, thanks to galamsey”, says Maxwell. “Most people did not have access to electricity but now they have been able to connect electricity into their houses and they can afford to pay the bills. I can assure you that every house here now has a television set. Nagodi now has four grinding mills whereas in the past the women were forced to grind their maize on stones because there was no single grinding mill. In addition people now use roofing sheets instead of thatch to roof their houses”, he adds.
Abolga Kumda, a farmer who also indulges in galamsey activities to make ends meet collaborates Maxwell’s assertion that the impact of galamsey activities on the social life of Nagodi has been positive; “When we were children, we would say to our parents, father I am hungry. Then he would say, go away, I should pick stones for you and it would change into money. Not knowing that the money was inside the stones. Some had the money and built their houses and married wives. Others took care of their brothers in school”
Not content with the gold in the abandoned gold mine, the galamsey operators decided to prospect for gold on other lands they suspected contained some of the precious metal. “Galamsey has gone down”, says Maxwell. “gold is a non-renewable resource so the more you take it out the more it goes down”.
However, Abolga disagrees with this assertion, saying, “now, as we are not getting the gold, it is not that the gold is not there. It is there. But how to get it”
Some farmlands have fallen victim to theses exploits. According to Maxwell, at least 10 acres of farmland in the Nagodi area have been desecrated in an effort to look for new sources of gold. When asked about the reaction of the farmers whose farmlands were affected, he says, “They also joined in the search for gold. They are aware that the money they would make when they strike gold would be more than what they can ever earn from their farming activities.”
Aware that it would be difficult to put an immediate halt to galamsey activities at Nagodi, where there have been accidents leading to many deaths and several galamsey boys were repeatedly arrested during the Rawlings administration in a bid to halt their activities, the Ministry of Health has stepped in to provide the gold prospectors with information relevant to their safety.
“The Ministry of Health comes in to educate the galamsey boys on how to use mercury, which is a poisonous chemical that is essential in gold processing safely. They also educate them on how to prevent over exposure to dust from the mines which can cause respiratory diseases”.
Undoubtedly, galamsey mining at Nagodi has come to stay in view of the numerous economic, social and even academic benefits that it has bequeathed on that community. Consequently, it is being viewed as a God-sent opportunity to rescue the community from poverty. What then remains is for government to institute steps that would enable the galamsey boys to carry out their activities in a safe and orderly manner without sustaining unnecessary injuries and even deaths or causing further destruction to the environment. The steps taken by the Ministry of Health to educate the gold diggers to safeguard their health is laudable but more needs to be done.
The miners have indicated that what pushes them to prospect for gold on lands other than the abandoned gold mine is because they practice surface mining since they do not have the machinery and expertise to engage in deep mining. Even though they have invested in equipment to help them dig deeper into the bowels of the earth such as water pumping machines and air machines, they are insufficient. Thus, partnering them with organizations that would provide them with the necessary inputs and safety measures in return for a share of their proceeds may be one of the ways to resolve the issue.
As much as possible, partner organizations should try to address the social problems linked with the sudden influx of strangers and money into the once cash-strapped community. Teenage girls should be counseled and given some form of moral education. They should also be enlightened on issues on reproductive health, AIDS prevention as well as the prevention of other sexually transmitted diseases.
Above all, people should be counseled to invest their money wisely. Some have already done so by investing in their own education as well as that of their siblings, putting up houses and buying grinding mills but more can be done by venturing into other business opportunities. The crux of the matter is for people to manage money gained from prospecting for gold in such a way that, when the time finally comes that their soils and the bowels of the earth under their community can no longer spit out gold, they would have built a solid economic base that would prevent the community from slipping back into poverty.
Like Abolga said, “the galamsey, it is good. But if you are not careful, you will die”. So let’s help prevent our galamsey boys from dying and also safeguard the environment.

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  1. July 12, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Keep your investment plan simple if you are just starting out.
    It can be tempting to diversify right away and try everything you have read about or learned.
    But, if you are new at investing it is best to find one thing that works and sticks with that.

    It will save you money in the long run.

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