General News of Saturday, 16 December 2017
Colonel William Agyapong, the outgoing Commander of Operation Vanguard, the task-force responsible for ending illegal mining across the country, is alarmed over the discovery of sophisticated arms owned and used by illegal miners in the country.
He said the anti-galamsey team retrieved 58 different firearms indicating that the illegal miners had become sophisticated.
In an interview with Citi News, Col. Agyapong said, the situation is worrying, and there was the need for stakeholders to find a way to address it before it gets out of hands.
“One striking thing is the number of arms, weapons we came across. We came across as many of 58 different types of weapons. Pistols, single and double barrels, pump action guns both locally made and foreign ones. As a military personnel, it is worry that plying a simple trade like mining will have people come on board with weapons. It is a very worrying situation that we need to look at it because we don’t know the number of weapons that are still in the hands of people,” he said.
Punishment for ‘galamseyers’ too weak – Operation Vanguard commander
Col. Agyapong further expressed worry about the weight of punishment meted out to illegal miners after they have been arrested by the anti-galamsey task-force.
According to him, the sentences given by the judiciary to the suspects were not deterrent enough, and was a major disincentive to the fight against illegal mining in the country.
“Government has done a lot but we will need more. The kind of sentences and fines that come out of the arrest are not helpful. We know that the onus is on the prosecution to prove somebody guilty, but if you know what we go through and after everything the sentencing and the fines are not so deterrent…. If you fine somebody who is involved in small-scale illegal mining and you fine him GH¢1,000 or GH¢2,000, I think that it will not be deterrent enough. He will not see why he should not go back to the land. These are worrying issues that I hope that in due course, they are tackled by the appropriate authority,” he said.
The deployment of the joint police and military task-force came as a major boost to government’s fight against illegal mining in the country, following news of its devastating effects on the country’s land and water resources.
Government placed a six-month ban on all forms of mining until further notice, but later extended the ban to January 2018, because the needed result has not been achieved.