A total of Thirty four (34) Illegal small scale miners, popularly known as galamsey operators, including nine (9) foreigners (5 Chinese and 4 Burkinabes) have been apprehended for mining without license in a swoop conducted by a 240- strong Task Force comprising military and police personnel in various of the Western Region.
All the suspects arrested during swoop dubbed “Operation Halt II” were arraigned in court by the Western Regional Police Command arraigned charged with mining without license. The suspects were subsequently remanded in police custody by the court.
The operation was conducted by the National Security Committee on Lands and Natural Resources, (NSCLNR) an inter-sectoral body, comprising the Police, Military, Immigration, Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Lands , Minerals and Forestry Commissions was constituted by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to combat the illegal exploitation of the nation’s natural resources.
The operation which was organized simultaneously in different locations, was designed principally to halt the uncontrolled degradation of forest reserves, destruction of the environment around galamsey sites and reckless pollution of the Ankobra and Bonsa rivers .
They were also targeted at ensuring the safety of the water for use by the local communities, send a strong signal to other galamsey operators to halt their illegal activities and encourage them to take the necessary steps to regularize their operations.
Forest Reserves covered during the operation include the Nueng South , Cape Three Points and Akyempim Forest Reserves. Rivers covered were Bonsaso and Asuoso while some locations around Adansi, Dikoto and Jappa were also visited.
Portions of the road linking Tarkwa - Wassa Akropong- Ayanfuri which have been destroyed by galamsey operators were covered during the swoop.
A number of equipment including five( 5) heavy duty excavators , sixty (60) changfan dredging machines, six (6) 20 footer containers used as accommodation , five (5) generating plants, fifteen (15) IBC containers of diesel , mats for extracting gold deposits were confiscated by the Task Force during the operation.
Also confiscated and handed over to the police as exhibits were one (1) safe(contents undisclosed), one (1)M16 assault rifle with seven ( 7) rounds of live ammunition and two (2) ZNA pick-up vehicles.
Major (Rtd) E.W. Logochura, Head of the monitoring team of the NSCLNR and Co-ordinator of the Operation, made the disclosure when he presented a report on the operation to Mr. Frank Sofo, the Acting Chief Director, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
He stressed that the operations will be continued to stop the devastation of the nation’s resources and cautioned all perpetuators to take to legitimate livelihoods or they would be made to face the full rigours of the law.
He decried the pollution of the rivers with harmful chemicals like mercury and cyanide by the illegal miners to the extend that communities around rivers Bonsaso and Asuoso are unable to drink from these rivers. Major Logochura also revealed that the large tracks of the Nueng South and Akyempim forest reserves have been completely destroyed by these illegal operators.
The Co-ordinator said assault boats would also be acquired to patrol the rivers in a mop-up exercise to secure the water bodies while policing of the forest reserves will also be stepped up to halt the illegalities.
He further requested the public to furnish the NSCLNR with the necessary information on such illegal practices to facilitate its operations. Major (Rtd) Logochura also called for a total ban on the importation of the China-made changfan dredging machines.