Ghana is a country with a bountiful supply of minerals – the mining industry of Ghana accounted for 5.7% of the country’s GDP and generated an annual revenue of US$35 billion in 2014. This extraction of minerals comes with a significant environmental impact – predominantly from illegal small-scale miners – known as ‘galamseys’. The estimated one million illegal miners, have caused extensive pollution of rivers, through use of arsenic and mercury, and people dying after falling into abandoned mining pits. So great was the damage caused by galamseys there were suggestions Ghana might run out of safe water by 2030.
Illegal mining was so profitable, that corruption was inextricably linked. A 2017 report highlighted that foreign gold miners operated with impunity and were protected by those in authority, that is, public officials, politicians and chiefs, in return for private payments.
The BBC reported in 2017 that the people of Ghana declared war against galamseys with a #SayNoToGalamsey campaign and the government placed a moratorium on all small-scale mining activity, including the deployment of the military to enforce the ban.
Shortly before my latest visit to Ghana, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, announced the government’s intention to lift the ban on small-scale mining before Christmas 2018. An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining, headed by Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, has drafted a roadmap to ensure sustainable mining and protect the environment. This roadmap includes, stopping the operational activities of large-scale mining companies that have flouted regulations, halting the activities of prospecting companies bulk sampling and processing, withdrawing all military and para-military personnel and educational tours of mining communities.
Illegal logging is also of great concern, in a country where it is estimated that as much as 80 per cent of all wood sold in Ghana is illegally acquired from its forests. Ghana has experienced over 2% deforestation for the past two decades, with 8.2 million hectares of forest, being reduced to 1.6 million hectares. Wood-balance estimates indicate that timber consumption considerably exceeds sustainable harvesting levels, with the loss of 55,000 hectares of forest annually. The factors contributing to this deforestation include, illegal logging and weak enforcement of laws.
Legislation is in place to prosecute the galamseys and illegal loggers, but convictions are rare, let alone prosecutions. With the proposed lifting of the moratorium on illegal mining, enforcing Ghana’s extensive environmental protection laws could not be more timely.
To support prosecution of environmental crime offences, the EU funded Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) is drafting an environmental crimes prosecution manual. The purpose of the manual is to guide how to collect evidence for environmental crimes and necessary steps for a successful prosecution. Convictions, with deterrent sentences, and confiscation of assets or instrumentalities, will be a positive step to ensure effective enforcement.
Environmental criminal law is a change of environment for me. Albeit, the basic principles of building a robust case, through prosecutors collaboratively working with investigators, and assessing evidence through application of the Ghana Code for Prosecutors, remain the same fundamental steps for all serious crime prosecutions. I hope our support can be just one essential element to protect the precious flora and fauna in Ghana for the next generation.
On more familiar ground, I also presented the zero draft of the Points to Prove Handbook to the working group of investigators and police prosecutors. Following a line-by-line review, we now have a final product, renamed by the working group to, ‘The Guidelines for Investigation and Prosecution’. These Guidelines are intended to be a quick reference tool, and will be developed as an app for use in the field by police officers investigating crimes and police prosecutors at court.
In my last week in Ghana, ARAP hosted a workshop on disclosure, following the landmark decision of the Republic v. Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie & 4 Ors. Reference Number J1/06/2018. This Supreme Court judgement ruled the prosecution must disclose to the accused before trial, evidence the prosecution will tender and relevant material which may assist the accused’s defence. This is a sea change for prosecutors – who already face challenges with limited resources. Discussing experiences from other jurisdictions and addressing practical issues, the workshop was an opportunity for all involved to discuss practical implications and start the important process of drafting disclosure guidelines.
The last three weeks have demonstrated there is the will for change – now the hard part – implementation!