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General News of Friday, 16 February 2018

Source: Ghananewsagency.org

Operation Vanguard arrests more galamsey operators

The joint taskforce made up of security personnel deployed to the mining fields under “Operation Vanguard,” has arrested and flushed out 1,012 illegal miners, with a significant number of them being foreigners.

Colonel Michael Amoah Ayisi, National Commander of Operation Vanguard, who announced this in Accra said since the security personnel got to the field, significant arrest and flushing out of illegal miners had been achieved.

He said many of those involved were Chinese and other foreign nationals from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, India and Niger.

The Operation Vanguard Taskforce has been operating in Ashanti, Eastern and Western Regions since July 31, 2017.

Colonel. Ayisi who addressed stakeholders at a forum organised by the Media Coalition against Galamsey at a recent meeting in Accra, noted that, most of the arrested suspects, including indigenes, were before the law courts while 22 of the foreigners had been convicted, others on bail with some having their cases adjourned.

He said the Office of the Attorney General had also taken over the prosecution of some cases in the Eastern Region.

Giving the statistics, he said 142 of them were foreigners, out of which 124 were Chinese, four Burkinabes, three Nigerians, six Togolese, one Indian, one Beninois and three Nigeriens. He said the youth, aged between 19 and 35, formed the bulk (about 69.5 per cent) of the total arrests, followed by the 36 to 50 age group and then the 51 to 66 years, forming five per cent of those arrested.

Col. Ayisi said Regional analysis of the suspects arrested so far had proven that most of them do not hail from their areas of operation. “And so this goes to buttress the fact that people go to other areas to degrade the land and so very soon or later, we will have the inhabitants or the indigenes of those Regions affected, rising up against the foreigners, because they will not be gaining much but they will have to be dealing with the problem”.

He said the security forces had also been able to flush out the illegal operators from the Bia river, which had hitherto been heavily polluted by the miners, and thereby, affecting the waters of neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, and straining relationship with Ghana.

Col. Ayisi said the people of Cote d’Ivore have now acknowledged that they had seen a change in the water they receive from Bia in their treatment area.

He announced that a number of equipment been seized so far include 370 excavators, 910 water-pumping machines, 60 vehicles, 54 motor bikes, 3,368 Changfans, and 83 weapons, among other items.

He said the operation of the taskforce had however faced some challenges, which include inadequate manpower and logistics to support the operations, hindering the personnel from stamping their authority in most of the vast mining areas.

He said the prosecution of suspects had been so slow, and that, out of the 1,012 cases only 107 had been convicted and the sanctions for the convicts were not deterrent enough.

“I want to say that despite the challenges the taskforce have performed creditably well in the desire to stop the menace. We have also establish good rapport with the communities, who freely volunteer information.

“Some of the water bodies have also started regaining their natural state, though we have a lot to do in order to clear the major rivers”.

Col Ayisi said there had also been voluntary evacuation of excavators from the hinterlands and about 1,200 excavators have been moved away by it’s owners into urban centres.

Meanwhile, the government had given the assurance that, the fight against illegal mining would continue unabated until all illegalities in the mining sector was regularised and sanity restored in the mining sector.

The Government said it was still working out modalities that would ensure that mining activities were done in the right way before considering lifting the ban on mining.

Mr Ken Ashigbe, Convenor of the Coalition, said since the Media took active interest in the fight against galamsey ten months ago, and Operation Vanguard was deployed, it had been able to do a good job in chasing out illegal miners, while there had been improvement in the turbidity level of some water bodies as well.