The Interministerial Committee on Illegal Mining has been urged to compel the Small Scale Mining Association’s taskforce – GALAMSTOP – to account for every excavator it has seized from mining sites.
The leader of the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, Mr Ken Ashigbey, who made the call during an exclusive interview with The Chronicle also appealed to the media to expose all those behind illegal mining and are derailing His Excellency the President’s effort to reorganise the mining sector.
Mr Ashigbey, who was reacting to the paper’s publication of last Thursday on the disappeared excavator and alleged bribes collected by some of the GALAMSTOP members wanted immediate investigation to be conducted into the scandal, and those found culpable punished to serve as deterrent.
He regretted that the supposed money allegedly extorted has not been reported to any police station to connect a case of bribery, and the money, if it was indeed collected, would end up in the pockets of individuals in the name of fighting galamsey.
According to him, officials of GALAMSTOP, who are implicated in these shameful acts posed a big threat to the very fight against galamsey, since they prefer using the system to enrich themselves and must be stopped immediately in their track.
“Where are all the excavators seized at a time so much money is needed to do the reclamation. We need complete accountability for every bit of equipment seized and demobilised”, he said.
Mr Ashigbey entreated Municipal/District Chief Executives, Police, Forestry officers and for that matter the National Security to rally behind President Nana Akufo Addo’s good intention to win the war against galamsey.
It would be recalled that on the February 20, 2019, a group of persons from GALAMSTOP stormed a mining site at Tumantu in the Nzema East District of the Western Region and seized two excavators belonging to one Opia Mensah, a miner.
This group was alleged to have extorted GHc100,000 (One hundred thousand Cedis) from Mr Mensah with the promise to release his seized excavators, which never happened.
The affected members, after initial denial, however, admitted receiving GHc40,000 (Forty thousand Ghana Cedis) and not the claimed amount.
One of the excavators disappeared whilst they were being sent to Accra and it took the owners several months to locate it.
The excavator, worth Ghc500,000 ( Five hundred thousand Ghana Cedis) was found burnt in the Kutukrom Forest Reserve in the Prestea Huni Valley Municipality of the Western Region, because it was being used for illegal mining.
Sources close to the forestry department of the Forestry Commission disclosed to the paper that one of its officials allegedly permitted the operator to mine in the reserve after taking a bribe of GHC 20,000 (Twenty thousand Ghana Cedis) from him and continued to benefit from percentage of proceeds from the illegal mining.
The Chronicle has, however, not been able to independently confirm this bribe allegation.
On September 5, 2019, two teams from the Forestry in Asankragwa and Prestea following a tip off on illegal mining activities in the reserve, decided to conduct routine checks.
This official who allowed the use of the forest and was part of the visiting officers quickly hinted the operator to remove both storage battery and dashboard to demobilise the equipment before their arrival at the site.
Truly, when the officials made up of forest guards and armed soldiers found the machine without these vital components, they set it on fire.
In a related development, concerns are being raised over what is perceived as duplication of functions between Operation Vanguard and GALAMSTOP.
The latter which was established to monitor mining activities and liaise with Operation Vanguard has also assumed the enforcement role, and to some extent, closer to the authorities, a situation which may soon transform into rivalry.
GALAMSTOP reports direct to the Chairman of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining but same does not apply to Operation Vanguard.