The Chronicle Editorial: Has the war on illegal mining been lost?

Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng New Prof Frimpong Boateng, Minister of Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI)

Mon, 3 Feb 2020 Source: The Chronicle

There are several media reports last week, which quoted the Minister for Environment Science and Technology, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, as saying that most of the excavators they seized from illegal miners have vanished.

"The task force seized a lot of excavators and kept them at the various offices; we sent people to talk to the district assemblies; we got vanguard involved and we realised most of the excavators have disappeared,'' he was quoted as saying on Joy Fm's Super Morning Show.

The Chronicle finds this disclosure, if it is true, as very unfortunate. The media, in 2017, started the war against illegal mining in the country because of the rapid manner our water bodies were being destroyed. Major rivers such as Pra, Ankobrah and Offin among others had been destroyed through illegal mining at the time.

President Akufo-Addo, realising the important role water plays in the survival of mankind, adopted the media campaign and went further to set up Operation Vanguard, which is made of both military and police personnel to fight the menace.

In fact, the President went to the extent of putting his presidency on line, saying he would be happy winning the war against the pollution of water bodies and environment as a whole, and losing the election than sit down idle for these illegal miners to destroy the environment.

When Operation Vanguard started work after heavy fanfare in Accra, many were those who thought the massive destruction of the environment was going to stop. Indeed, there were clear indications that the battle would be won, looking at the way the media were reporting about the arrest of illegal miners and sometimes setting their machines on fire by the military-police taskforce.

But, months into their operations, everything started to nose dive, as there were several reports that members of the taskforce were being compromised by illegal miners, who are being financed obviously by wealthy men and women in our society. As expected, members of the taskforce came out to deny the claim. Despite these denials, The Chronicle, for instance, has got intelligence information that the illegal mining is still going on in the remote parts of the country.

The Chronicle is therefore, not surprised at the threat by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) to close down its pumping stations at Daboase and Inchaban - all in the Western Region - because of the heavy pollution of the intake points where they draw water for treatment and subsequent supply to the Secondi-Takoradi Metropolis. The position of the GWCL alone tells a story that the battle to stop illegal mining has failed.

Because those involved in illegal mining activities are wealthy people who are well connected to the corridors of power, they are able to bulldoze their way through anytime their machines are seized. Indeed, a couple of months ago, we reported how an excavator seized in one of the forests in the Western Region found its way to a spot near Kasoa in the Central Region and vanished from the place when the cover was blown.

Clearly, if Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng had taken our story serious and investigated the issue, maybe he would not today be talking about the disappearance of excavators his outfit had seized. As we write, this piece, a Detective Sargent attached to Operation Vanguard has reportedly petitioned the top echelons of government about massive corruption that has characterised the operations of the taskforce. He has reportedly accused one of the top officers of the taskforce of pocketing GHC45,000 every month from the illegal miners.

This is mere allegation, but if it turns out to be true, it tells another story that some members of the taskforce have let the President down. President Akufo-Addo cannot pick guns and go into the bush to fight the illegal miners . Definitely, he has to use the security agencies, but if these agencies he is trusting have allowed themselves to be compromised, then we can say our security is wrong hands.

But instead of throwing our hands into the air as a sign of despair, we advise Prof. Frimpong-Boateng to liaise with both the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Chief Defence Staff (CDS) on how best they can collectively investigate the issue - the disappearance of the seized excavators and continuous destruction of our water bodies by the illegal miners - and bring the perpetrators to book. Should he fail to do this, the war on illegal mining would have, indeed, been lost

Source: The Chronicle
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