Gold Was Once The Cause Of Our Ruination. Yet We Are Repeating That Wretched History Today!
Daily Guide 02 November 2013
When I was first told about it, I could simply not believe it. How could the river Supong – the main source of drinking water in my town, Asiakwa – have been killed off?
I mean, it was the river that literally gave me life! Its water was cool and clean: so clear that on your way back from your farm, you could put down your load, pluck a couple of deep green leaves from a well-known plant, also used to wrap the lovely, sweet kenkey known as “Osino Graphic”, descend into the river, fill the “cup” with water, and take long, greedy gulps of the coldest, naturally-sweet drink on earth!
No chance of catching any malignant microbes in Supong water: the river’s flow was regulated by a current swift enough to make it impossible for any disease-carrying organism to resist being forcibly driven downstream. The organism would vanish in a whirlpool action powered by gravity itself.
Supong was safe to drink. At any time. Nobody in my town had ever been attacked by river-borne diseases like guinea worm. So we swam in the river. Our parents laid traps in it which caught fish and crabs and shrimps. A great soup after working on the farm was therefore always assured.
No wonder Supong was almost worshipped like a god. It was even accorded a human being’s name: Kwasi (the name given to a male child born on Sunday). This helped people to identify with the river’s need – just like a human being – to rest on one day a week.
What had happened to ‘kill off” this river which had been gifted to our people by Nature, at a time they were seeking somewhere to settle, in those ancient days when migration of peoples was almost the norm on earth?
Supong has been killed off by people digging for gold!
Ghanaians have once again discovered that their land is a veritable gold mine, on which every house and hamlet, farm or – riverbed– is potentially capable of yielding the sort of gold that made Ghana an Eldorado in ancient times – an Eldorado known to the world as “The Gold Coast”. But just as trade in gold devastated our nation in ancient times by bringing in its wake, white gold traders who metamorphosed into slave traders in the abominable Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that lasted about 500 years and slaughtered millions of our people, so is the modern quest for gold laying waste to our land, and thereby posing a threat to the very survival of our succeeding generations.
The gold-hunting is not only happening in my area, the Eastern Region, but all across Ghana. The process used is called galamsey. Its technical name is ‘placer mining’ and it involves the mining of alluvial deposits for rich minerals, such as gold. Valuable metal deposits (particularly gold) and gemstones, are often found in alluvial deposits— that is, deposits of sand and gravel in modern or ancient stream beds.
The metal or gemstones, are moved by stream flow from an original source. Since gems and heavy metals like gold are considerably more dense than sand, they tend to accumulate at the base of riverbeds and other placer deposits.
In other words, riverbeds are the major — and best – place to engage in placer mining. And since you can’t mine a riverbed without digging the riverbed in an upside down swirling movement, the river simply dies when the miners get to work on it.
They use machines to turn the riverbed inside out. They also apply poisonous substances like mercury and cyanide to refine the sand and rock-dust they get, in the hope of obtaining gold nuggets. They work fast and move on even faster. For most of what they do is illegal.
The miners find an “elder” in a town or village who is susceptible to bribery and who also claims to “own” a piece of land near where gold may be found. The miners recruit him to act as an informer who briefs them on when they can safely carry out their work without detection. After the miners have done their digging (often at night) they quickly move on to the next village or town, leaving the people of the previous town with a horrendous fait accompli!
If you have the technical means, please take a few minutes to watch a film on Youtube, which was made, at great personal risk, by the courageous West Africa Correspondent of the London Guardian newspaper, Afua Hirsch. Go towww.youtube.com and search for illegal+mining+gold+Ghana. v=ohrrE1rjzLo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohrrE1rjzLo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohrrE1rjzL
It is worth the trouble, I assure you.
Now, in my childhood, this Supong river which is now dead, was so strong and deep that when it rained, children were warned not to try and swim in it.
Today, what is left of Supong river is pools of stagnant water littered with mud, leafy sediments and greenish algae. The water smells bad – mercury and cyanide, poisonous substances that are used in separating gold nuggets from sand and crushed rock – have killed all life in it.
There is no other river at Asiakwa, for Twafuor, a second river which in the past supplied one half of the town with water, dried up over two decades ago. Only a borehole, with a water purification plant, is in operation there. But this plant occasionally experiences blockage, as well as other difficulties associated with poor maintenance. I am told that recently, some people had to travel as far as Sajumase – two miles away – in search of water. The Sajumase people didn’t like that one bit.
Strangely, galamsey operators from outside Asiakwa town were rented housing by townsmen who could not have been unaware of the diabolical nature of the operations being carried out in their own town and its environs by the galamsey operators. I even heard that one or two Chinese people had taken residence at Asiakwa! Now, that clearly suggests that some Asiakwa people themselves have willy-nilly connived at the destruction of their own source of water, river Supong! In times past, such people would have been ostracised, if not set upon and inflicted with grievous bodily harm. But not today, when people can sit down and do nothing when their very lives are threatened: when all and sundry are so apathetic that they effectively connive at their own collective suicide.
By Cameron Duodu