Eight charges have been preferred against the five Chinese and their Ghanaian counterparts, who were arrested by the Western Regional Police Command on March 24, 2017 for allegedly mining gold illegally in River Ankobra in two communities – Bamiankor and Duwale – in the Western Region.
They were charged with conspiracy to commit crime and undertaking small-scale mining without license contrary to Section 99(2) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, causing intentional and unlawful harm and damage to property, causing unlawful damage intentionally and unlawfully to property in a manner likely to cause danger to life.
They were also charged with pollution of water contrary to section 23(1) of the criminal offences, pollution of water contrary to section 24 of the Water Resources Commission Act, 1996.
The other charges are engaging in mining activity using methods not known or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), disregarding a directive and obligation imposed under the immigration Act and also making false representation contrary to section 23(1) of the Criminal Offences Act,1960.
All the 10 suspects pleaded not guilty to the eight charges when they appeared before a Sekondi High Court yesterday, and the court, presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante, remanded them into prison custody to reappear before it on May 3, 2017.
It would be recalled that about two weeks ago when the suspects appeared before the court, it ordered the seizure of the ‘water home’ and other equipment on the River Ankobra purportedly built by the Chinese illegal miners for their operations in the river.
The court also remanded five Chinese and five Ghanaians into police custody to give the court ample time to look for a certified Chinese interpreter to help interpret the proceedings to the Chinese nationals.
When the court sat yesterday, a certified Chinese interpreter, Yang Weiqiang, was available to interpret proceedings to the Chinese nationals.
He was led by Chief Interpreter, Nat Karikari of the Judicial Service, Headquarters in Accra.
The prosecutor, George Sackey, a Senior State Attorney, mentioned the names of the Chinese suspects as Dong Cheng, unemployed; Huang Jiang, Engineer; Nin Guorui, welder; Yin Bi Qiang, spare parts dealer and Li Zilong, cook.
He gave the names of the Ghanaian suspects as Eric Owusu, carpenter; Kwabena Adjei, small scale miner; Nana Adu Ackah Mensah, farmer; Kwesi Owusu, unemployed and Kofi Darko, driver.
He told the court that in the early part of 2017, the Police Regional CID in Sekondi, had a tip-off that some Asians and Ghanaians had invaded the banks of River Ankobra and were engaged in illegal mining on the bed of the river.
Armed with the information, the Regional Police Command organized an operation on May 24, 2017 to clamp down the illegal miners.
The team visited the area and spotted the accused persons busily engaged in alluvial dredging on board a huge boat mounted on River Ankobra, which served as their permanent place of abode.
The police managed to enter the boat and arrested the accused persons.
When a search was conducted on the boat, a quantity of black sand concentrate in a metal container suspected to contain gold was found together with machine parts.
In the course of investigations, it was realised that the accused persons did not have authorization from the Minerals Commission to conduct that mining procedure.
The suspects were also not able to produce any authorization from the EPA or the Water Resources Commission.
According to the Senior State Attorney, the five Chinese nationals had not been able to produce evidence to authorize their operation of a mining concession or engage in any type of mining activity in Ghana.
After investigations they were charged and arraigned before court.
Two witnesses, who were called to testify about the case all, alleged that the Chinese ‘galamseyers’ polluted the River Ankobra with their activities and eased themselves and threw their left over meals into the only source of water for the people.
One of the lawyers of the accused persons, Samuel Ericson Abekah, prayed the court to grant bail to the accused persons who had languished in cells for four weeks, because the offences were bailable ones, but his application was refused.
From Emmanuel Opoku, Sekondi