An amended Minerals and Mining Act which seeks to, among other things, prescribe stiffer punishment for illegal mining in the country has been assented to by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
The new law, in addition to enhancing the penalties for illegal mining, explicitly criminalises aiding and abetting illegal mining activities as well as the use of other equipment for mining in water bodies.
Consequently, the Act has prescribed a minimum sentence of 15 years and maximum of 25 years for foreigners who engage in illegal mining, popularly referred to as 'galamsey'.
Before the 2019 amendment, the maximum jail term for engaging in illegal mining was five years.
The President remarked on the new law that "It is to take away some of the discretion of the judges" who gave out minor sentences which were not deterrent enough.
The impact of the activities of galamseyers on farmlands and water bodies is no longer a secret.
Farmlands, water bodies, among others, have been devastated in various parts of the country.
Within the past few years, we have listened and read concerns from majority of Ghanaians about the wanton destruction of the country's vegetation cover and water resources by illegal miners in search of gold and other mineral resources.
This, undoubtedly, is dangerous for our survival as a country and poses a major national security threat.
The Ghanaian Times, therefore, welcomes the new law and hopes that this latest measure fully addresses the current unjustified degradation of the environment.
From the imposition of a moratorium on small scale mining, to the deployment of 'Operation Vanguard', a joint police and military operation to fight off illegal miners from mining areas, and the introduction of new small scale mining licensing regulations, we have made some gains in tackling illegal mining.
We can only deter recalcitrant illegal miners from continuing their actions and deter those who are yet to engage in the illegality through strict enforcement of the new law.
Our confidence in the court to support efforts to root out illegal mining from the country has and will never suffer a loss.
We further urge the security agencies not to be complacent, but rather intensify patrols and other operational activities that would keep illegal miners away from the water bodies and forest areas.
We cannot allow a few bad nuts to destroy our cherished environment and natural resources which we are expected to hold in trust for generations unborn.
The new Minerals and Mining Act must be enforced to the letter.