Powerful people with military protection are those behind the resurgence of illegal mining in Ghana’s forests, the Bekwai District Manager of the Forestry Commission, Mr Rexford Twum-Damoah, has revealed to journalists.
The Bekwai forest reserve in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region is one of the areas bearing the brunt of the return of galamsey as some seven hectares of the forest have succumbed to illegal mining.
According to Mr Twum-Damoah, anytime they surge in on the illegal miners, “they will always tell you: ‘Our bosses, our bosses’”.
“You will go there [forests] and meet the boys”, citing, as an example: “We came here with all forces and they [galamseyers] also had military protection”.
“The actual entry started around 2 January 2020,” Mr Twum-Damoah said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, has said that about 90% of galamseyers have ceased operations since the Operation Vanguard Team was established almost three years ago.
“I can say 90 per cent, by and large, [of] those who are doing galamsey, I can say about 90 per cent have stopped. These galamsey people are people who have no money to buy concessions, have no money to buy excavators; they get their shovels and things and go to the bush and start digging. That is what we call galamsey – gather and sell – these are people we are targeting. So far, we have about 20,000 for community mining and I’m saying that so far, we have 20,000 or more”, he said in an interview on Monday, 27 January 2020.
According to him, the majority of them have moved from galamsey activities into community mining as streamlined by the government. “So far, we have about 20,000 or more who have moved from galamsey into community mining. These are people who have been vetted in Ashanti, Eastern, Western, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions”, he explained.
Speaking on Accra-based Joy FM, Professor Frimpong-Boateng said some miners who have been licensed have also been engaging in some illegal mining activities.
He debunked the assertion that galamsey activities are still pervasive, saying: “If some people are in illegal mining, it does not mean that galamsey is widespread and is bad as it was two years ago.”
“We had a meeting, the National Taskforce Committee on Illegal Mining had a meeting on the 14 of January of this month where we discussed; and some of the areas that we saw having illegal mining activities were discussed; And, so, two days after the meeting, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources went to one of the sites to conduct that exercise, so, these are things that we have people who inform us on the ground [about], we have drones, we have other ways of determining; everyday something is happening”, said Professor Frimpong-Boateng.
On the number of excavators impounded, Prof Frimpong-Boateng said 140 or so are in the custody of the committee, contrary to the about 500 excavators that were alleged to have been seized by the Taskforce during Mr John Peter Amewu’s era as Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo established the National Taskforce Committee otherwise known as Operation Vanguard to fight the destruction of water bodies particularly due to illegal mining.