Unlike previous attempts to flush out illegal miners from Ghana’s water bodies and forest reserves, the government has announced that all equipment that will be seized under a new effort to end ‘galamsey’ will be destroyed on-site.
The operation which involves the deployment of 200 military personnel started last Wednesday and already nine excavators, 127 changfans, and one fuel pump which were being used for illegal mining in the river Pra have been seized.
The exercise on the Pra dubbed “Operation Halt” ended yesterday and it also resulted in the arrest of two Chinese nationals at Attieku near Twifo Praso in the Central Region for illegally mining in a forest reserve.
Addressing a press briefing on the military operation which was sanctioned by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Minister of Defense, Mr. Dominic Nitiwul said the Chinese had been handed to the national security for further interrogation and would be prosecuted.
According to him, “It is noted that since the commencement of the operation, the troops have destroyed a good deal of equipment including nine excavators, 127 changfans-machine platforms associated with mining equipment and one fuel pump.”
“Furthermore, the following items have been seized and would be destroyed except items that will be used as exhibits in court. The items include 8×24 plate batteries, one pump action gun case, a generator, Huawei phone, chainsaw machine, eight raincoats, fuel filters, non-citizen Ghana ID cards, two drilling equipment, and two boots. These items will be destroyed except what the police deem those necessary for their work for prosecution.”
The minister continued, “The law already outlaws mining within the river bodies and 100 metres to each of the flanks of the river, if you do any activity there it is an illegal activity. The President has directed that we clean up the river bodies and like I said, we are not taking any equipment home, we are not seizing any equipment, no equipment will be returned home. It’s not like before where you will seize equipment, they will all be destroyed on-site, it is as simple as that. “So, there is nothing like we are taking excavators, nothing will come home, everything will be destroyed at sight”.
Addressing concerns that the state may face judgement debts from destroying equipment belonging to illegal miners, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said the government “convinced that no court will give judgement debt to an illegal miner on a waterbody… whose machines have been destroyed. We are fortified in our view that no court will grant such a person a judgement debt”.
He added that the 200 military personnel which were drawn from the Ghana Army, the Ghana Navy and the Ghana Air Force were being supported by their Commanding Officers with support from the Ghana Police and other national security agencies.
The minister further added that, the 200 military personnel comprise of 154 officers and men from the Army, 40 officers and men from the Navy and six officers and men from the Air Force.
“64 ( 64 Infantry Regiment ) is leading the Eastern flank of river Pra and 2BN (Takoradi (2nd Infantry Battalion) is leading the Western flank of river Pra and the Navy is using their boats within the river itself and they are sweeping from the beginning of the river towards Twifo Praso”.
According to him, because of the terrain that was being covered by the troops they use equipment including Troop Carrying Vehicles (TVCs), assault boats as well as helicopters and drones.
In 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made a promise to fight ‘galamsey’ head on, even if it would cost him the next election.
Subsequently, a ban was placed on all forms of small-scale mining in the country as a measure to sanitize the sector.
That was followed by the deployment of Operation Vanguard, a joint military and police team to mining communities to crack down on the activities of illegal miners.
Other measures included the setting up of the IMCIM to oversee the ‘galamsey’ fight. In the course of the fight against ‘galamsey’ activities, the Operation Vanguard taskforce seized some excavators and mining equipment.
The Chairman of the IMCIM and Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation at the time, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said 500 of the seized excavators had gone missing.
However, when the then Minister-designate for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. Samuel Abu Jinapor appeared before the vetting committee of Parliament he assured that a new committee would take steps to unravel the mystery behind the missing excavators.
The five-member committee is to take inventory of the excavators and other equipment that were seized over the past four years in the fight against illegal mining.
It is chaired by the Advisor on Mines to the Minister at the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry, Mr. Ben Aryee.
Other members are from the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).