Former President Jerry John Rawlings has charged all Ghanaians to show responsibility to their environment and communities in our bid to confront the scourge of illegal mining.

In an address delivered after receiving a special award from the Ghana Mine Workers Union of the TUC at their 75th anniversary awards event on Friday, the former President who referred to illegal mining as one of the biggest challenges to the mining industry, said the damage to the environment and expensive infrastructure of already established large-scale mining concerns is incalculable. He cited the brazen abuse of the environment by ‘galamsey’ mining as a collective responsibility.

“There is no doubt that institutions have been weak and the commitment of successive governments even weaker because of shallow political expediency, but how do we, for instance, manage to send semi-industrial mining equipment and thousands of foreign nationals through our towns and villages into the thickets of our forests? Local people and traditional leaders are complicit. We like to blame central government but we never look for the log in our own eye and pluck it out!” the former President stated.

Flt Lt Rawlings noted that the biggest source of Ghana’s problems was a lack of noble sentiment and a patriotic sense of responsibility, stating that “until the average Ghanaian recognizes the need to show responsibility first to himself, his family, his environment and community, we will continue to experience economic, social and political poverty.”

Urging the membership of the Mine Workers Union to impact on their communities, the former President said they can be agents of change by using the anniversary to perform deep introspection of what they can do for Ghana.

“Let this be a period when many of your anniversary events are not about wining and dining but also about community interchanges that can impact on the scourge of illegal mining, indiscipline and corruption, which have become more of the norm than the exception.”

The former President said had British businessman and Chief Executive of Lonrho, Tiny Rowland been alive, he would have shared the award with him, describing him as a very special person who was perceptive, extraordinarily bold and courageous.

He said after the handover to Limann’s government in 1979, there were many attempts by the intelligence machinery in collaboration with Western embassies to persuade him to leave the country.

“My refusal to do so unleashed an avalanche of fabrications designed to assassinate my character as a prelude to my physical elimination. The Western intelligence machinery threatened to bury me alive. They very nearly succeeded,” he said.

Flt Lt Rawlings said he miraculously survived the various attempts to destroy him and returned to office to advance the national agenda.

Tiny Rowland, the former President said, also became a target of the West because he dared speak unspoken truths inviting Western wrath, revealing that the spear that was used to destroy Rowland was a Ghanaian who had ironically benefitted from the British businessman’s mentorship. Evil, he stated, had once again triumphed, adding; “If it weren’t for greed and love of power and control over God’s creation and freedom, humanity would not today be confronted with the challenge of global warming.

“He (Tiny Rowland) even took it upon himself to produce a documentary to vindicate Gaddafi over charges by the West,” former President Rawlings disclosed.

The former President also congratulated Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for making Africa proud by winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He said no one is more deserving and his choice enhances the image of the Nobel Peace body. He said he looked forward to the day when there will be a Mandela Justice for Peace Prize, a Pope John Paul Sacrifice for Peace Prize and a Mother Theresa Compassion for Peace Prize. He was also hopeful that unsung heroes such as Palestine’s Hanan Ashrawi will one day win the international recognition they deserve.

The citation accompanying the former President’s award stated, “Your Excellency, your personal involvement and commitment in salvaging the then declining/collapsing mining sector and transforming it into the enviable industry we see today is deeply appreciated. Your demonstration of excellence, high standards of ethical conduct, integrity and civic and social responsibility in those trying days made it possible for the mining sector to attract the needed Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) for its transformation. For this, the Ghana Mineworkers’ Union in particular and the entire mining sector will forever be grateful to you.

“The dynamic evolution of mineral laws and policies, under your leadership, led to a rapid growth of Ghana’s mining economy. Indeed, between 1983 and 1998, the mining industry brought approximately US$4 billion in Foreign Direct Investment to Ghana, representing more than 60% of all such investment in the country (Ghana Minerals Commission, 2000). The mining sector’s contribution to the nation’s gross foreign exchange earnings, under your leadership, also increased progressively from 15.60% in 1986 to 46% in 1998. In absolute terms, the sector generated US$ 124.4 million in 1986, and US$793 million in 1998 (Ghana Minerals Commission, 2000).

“For instance, between 1984 and 1995, there were significant institutional development and policy changes that offered generous incentives to investors to reflect the new paradigm. The establishment of the Minerals Commission in 1984; the promulgation of the minerals and mining code in 1986; the promulgation of the small-scale mining law in 1989 and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994 were all to boost the mining industry in Ghana.”

Other award winners were Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as well as Comrades Dominic Forvie and Ebow Tawiah.