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General News of Sunday, 19 January 2020

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Galamsey operators invade Oda River Forest Reserve

Hundreds of illegal miners have invaded the Oda River Forest Reserve in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti Region, leaving officials of the Forestry Commission frustrated.

The illegal miners, who are said to be riding on the shoulders of "big men" are depleting the 16,000-hectare forest with impunity.

This came to light when the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, led a team from the Lands Ministry and the Forestry Commission to the forest reserve to assess the extent of destruction caused by the activities of illegal miners.

The minister's visit followed reports that illegal mining, popularly called "galamsey", was in full force in that forest reserve.

When the team got to the reserve, it saw that several hectares of the forest cover had been destroyed by the galamsey operators, who had abandoned their equipment and ran for cover.

Equipment burnt

The galamsey operators had created four illegal mining sites about the size of a sports stadium.

Ten excavators, ‘chanfan’ machines, 18 fuel storage tanks and other equipment were seen at the site.

They had felled hundreds of trees and dug deep pits in their illegal search for gold.

Meanwhile, the sound of chanfan machines could be heard from a distance, giving an indication that another team of galamsey operators were busy at work.

The minister, who was outraged at the extent of the devastation caused by the illegal miners, led in the burning of some of the equipment, while the excavators were siezed.

Mr Asomah-Cheremeh told journalists that the lands ministry would immediately deploy security operatives to the area to protect the forest from further destruction.

He stressed that the government had put together a new strategy to tackle the galamsey operators, "but I will not put it out in the public now, else they will also try to play smart."

Out of hand

The Amansie Central District Manager of the Forestry Commission, Mr Redford Twum-Damoah, explained that the illegal mining activities in the forest reserve got out of hand during the past two weeks.

"This thing started in the forest reserve on January 2 this year; that is about two weeks ago. I moved my officials to this place but the people were dressed in military uniform and claimed they had authority to mine there. Our men could not stop them.

"This whole thing has powerful people behind it but investigation is still ongoing so I cannot put out any name to the media," Mr Twum-Damoah said.

Background

The development comes three years after the government waged a relentless war against galamsey by deploying Operation Vanguard, a joint security task force, to mining communities to safeguard land and water resources.