Soldiers protecting galamsey sites – Amewu

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, has challenged the leadership of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to come clean on the activities of some soldiers who have been providing security at illegal mining sites.

The minister threw the challenge when he found two soldiers providing security at an illegal mining site at Tontokrom in the Amansie West District in the Ashanti Region during the final lap of his four-day visit to the region last Monday. 

When he asked the soldiers, who were in full military uniforms and were holding MG16  rifles, how they got to the site, they mentioned the name of a senior military officer (name withheld) as the one who had assigned them to the area.

Mr Amewu ordered the arrest of two Russians and two Ukrainians for their alleged involvement in illegal mining in the community and caused the confiscation of their machines at the site.

He was accompanied by his two deputies, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi and Mr Benito Owusu-Bio; the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, and officials of the Minerals Commission.

Defence Minister reacts

Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Mr  Dominic Nitiwul, has ordered the Chief of the Defence Staff to immediately launch investigations into reports that some military men were providing security for illegal miners.

Reacting to the call by Mr Amewu on the GAF to come clean on the involvement of some military men in galamsey operations, Mr Nitiwul said the military had not officially ordered any such acts and so the culprits should be made to face the full rigours of the law if found culpable.

He said as far as he was concerned, the military was to provide protection for large-scale miners and licensed small-scale miners who were being pestered by illegal miners.

Any other thing apart from that, he said, was against the law and should not be allowed to continue.

Angry community

During the visit to the illegal mining site at Tontokrom in the Amansie West District, it took the support of angry members of the community for the minister and his entourage to gain entry to the mine site because the security at the mines had closed entry to the site for fear of reprisal attacks from members of the community.

Sources at the mine told newsmen that there were more than 70 Ukrainians and Russians working at the site.

That shocking news was corroborated by the Member of Parliament for Manso Nkwanta, Mr Joseph Albert Quarm, who was in the minister’s entourage.

Although 25 acres of land at Tontokrom was originally leased to two Ghanaian small-scale mining companies, the companies have sub-let them to the Russians and the Ukrainians who have destroyed more than 500 acres without any effort to reclaim it.

 The Minerals Commission has written a letter to the company involved, dated May 18, 2017, to stop all mining activities and reclaim all degraded lands.

The order, which was signed by a Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines in charge of Policy, Mr Amponsah Tawiah, was made available to the minister by some staff of the Minerals Commission.