Three Ghanaians and a Burkinabe who defied the six-month moratorium on illegal mining to engage in ‘galamsey’ in River Offin at Amadaa in the Atwima Nwabiagya District in the Ashanti Region have been arrested.
They were caught in the act by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John-Peter Amewu, and a team of officials from the ministry and the Minerals Commission who were on a fact-finding mission in galamsey-endemic areas in the region.
Three of the suspects, Abdul Karim, 21, the Burkinabe; Kofi Braimah, 25, and Abu Yakubu, 28, were arrested while busily mining and polluting the river. The fourth person, who gave his name only as Kofi, was arrested while making a phone call to inform the illegal miners of the presence of the minister and his entourage.
Drilling machines, a generator set and a motorbike used by the suspects in their illegal activities were confiscated on the orders of the minister.
Mr Amewu was in the company of his two deputies, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gaysi and Mr Benito Owusu Bio, as well as the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, officials of the Minerals Commission and journalists.
The minister expressed worry over the unpatriotic behaviour of some Ghanaians who were bent on destroying the environment, especially the water bodies which serve as sources of drinking water for thousands of people.
He reiterated that the ban on illegal mining was still in force and stressed that those caught flouting it would be dealt with according to the law.
Mr Amewu pointed out that the government was not anti-mining but rather it frowned on the methods of mining which destroyed the environment and water bodies, adding that after sanitising the industry, locals would be assisted to mine in a sustainable manner.
The main road leading to the Amadaa village was dotted with farmlands that had been destroyed through illegal mining activities, leaving in their wake huge trenches filled with dirty water.
Surprisingly, the mining site where the four were arrested was about 200 metres away from the chief’s palace but when the chief was questioned, he denied ever seeing or hearing anything about illegal mining in his community.
He expressed shock at the illegal mining activities and promised that he would caution the community against galamsey.
Mr Owusu-Afriyie, aka Sir John, appealed to the chief to ensure that the forest, farmlands and River Offin were protected because their destruction would spell doom for the community.
A member of the community, who pleaded anonymity, expressed doubt over the claim by the chief that he was not aware of the illegal mining activities and alleged that the community leaders had been selling the lands to the illegal miners who had destroyed large tracts of farmlands and cocoa farms.
He said those farmers who refused to sell their cocoa farms had their farms sprayed with chemicals, destroying the trees within 48 hours.