Three hundred and forty suspected galamsey operators, including Chinese nationals, have so far been arrested by the National Anti-Galamsey Task Force.
Out of the number, 20 were put before court where they were slapped with various fines to serve as a deterrent.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr David Eklu, the Director General, Public Affairs, of the Ghana Police Service, made this known at Wassa Akropong in the Amenfi East District in the Western Region last Saturday.
The task force was set up by the government this year to deal with the galamsey menace which has resulted in the wanton destruction of the forests, farmlands, pollution of water sources and the degradation of the environment.
Town hall meeting
Giving an update of the operations of the task force at a town hall meeting at Wassa Akropong, ACP Mr Eklu explained that the task force, otherwise called ‘Operation Vanguard’, was made up of professional police and army personnel who are tasked to restore law and order in the operations of the illegal miners.
“We need support for the initiative, which is to help everyone, including the police and the army. It will save our own lives and the future. The effects do not discriminate,” he stated.
However, the participants expressed their discontentment at the sentences imposed by the courts since in their estimation, the punishment was not deterrent enough. They called for a more stiffer sentence, including heavy fines, jail terms or both.
The meeting was organised by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey in collaboration with the National Commission on Civil Education, supported by some Christian and Muslim groups.
The media partners include the Graphic Communications Group, New Times Corporation, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Ghana News Agency (GNA) and the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) among others.
Present at the meeting included the Omanhene of the Wassa Amenfi Traditional Area, Tetrete Okuomoah Sekyim II, his elders and sub chiefs, the Western Regional Minister, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, the District Chief Executive (DCE), Mrs Helena Appiah, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Amenfi East, Mr Patrick Kwame Seim, security officers, assembly members and other stakeholders in the mining industry.
According to Mr Eklu, members of the task force had received further training and were therefore poised to enforce the law against illegal mining activities.
According to him, the government had provided necessary logistics to the task force to aid in its operations, adding that criminal activities had reduced in the region since the beginning of the operation.
“Our operation is geared towards ensuring that the people are safe to eat uncontaminated tilapia from unpolluted waters and again our people also drink clean water from our rivers without fear,” he added.
The Convener of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, explained that embarking on the advocacy in the media was not enough, for which reason members of the coalition had decided to reach out to the people in a face-to-face interaction.
He said similar meetings had taken place at Dunkwa in the Central Region and Kyebi in the Eastern Region. According to Mr Ashigbey, who is also the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited, the next townhall meeting would be held in the Brong Ahafo and Northern regions while the Upper East and Upper West regions would have their turns next year.
“We are not going back to the days of illegal mining, but those who are prepared to engage in legalised mining operations are welcome,” he added.
The Leader of a Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) being implemented at the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Dr Isaac Karikari, called for the enforcement of the law on illegal mining.
“We need to enforce the law to deter others. The Vanguard people have been trained not to kill the people but only to fire to defend themselves.”
“If sustained awareness creation is undertaken and alternative likelihood opportunities are created, the fight against the menace will succeed,” he stated.
Dr Karikari disclosed that within the next five years, about 500,000 small-scale miners (SSMs) from the mining communities would be engaged through their associations and groups.
He said about 20,000 acres of oil palm plantation and other economic trees would be established as part of the Alternative Livelihood Programme (ALP) for the miners.
For his part, the Western Regional Minister also mentioned social vices such as the use of cocaine, murder, prostitution and teenage pregnancy which he said were associated with galamsey operations.
“We mean well in stopping the galamsey operations and we will not succumb to any threats because the correct thing must be done,” he stated.
The Omanhene also appealed to the stakeholders to live up to expectations as he pledged his support to stop galamsey.