Darko-Mensah leads galamsey fight on Ankobrah River
The Western Regional Minister, Mr. Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, and a team of police officers have embarked on an exercise to stop illegal mining activities that have resurfaced in some water bodies and forest reserves in the region.
The operation led to the destruction of a fleet of floating changfang machines on the Ankobrah River between the Ampansie and Dominase Bridge in the Nzema East Municipality, while other illegal mining equipment that the team could not pull ashore to destroy were perforated to drop to the riverbed.
The exercise followed reports of night operation by illegal miners in various restricted areas in the region to outwit law enforcement agencies at the regional and district levels.
Prior to the arrival of the regional minister and his team, the army of young miners engaged in the galamsey escaped through the bush, while those in the middle of the river paddled their canoes to the other side of the river and fled.
Checks showed that after engaging in their illegal night activities, the illegal miners then move their equipment to the middle of the river during the day, with canoes anchored to the platforms with wooden footbridges linking solid ground for easy escape.
The Nzema East Municipal Security Council led by Mr. Darko-Mensah moved in for more than seven hours, which led to the seizure of the illegal machines mounted on the river and river beds.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the regional minister said the new phase of the fight against illegal activities was in collaboration with community leaders and members.
“Therefore, it is important for these people who think they could outsmart the system by hiding under the cover of darkness to cause havoc to the environment to stop, we are well aware of their activities and we will hound them down,” he said.
Unlike the hauling of the equipment as done previously, Mr. Darko-Mensah said the miners now used basic items such as yellow gallons, small barrels and formed metallic equipment dragged in bits and assembled at night and quietly pushed on the rivers to mine at night.
The minister said the regional office; district and municipal assemblies in the mining districts in the region were monitoring the progress.
“In the current operations, our intelligence gathered that some of these illegal mining operations on the Ankobrah River and tributaries had resumed and a taskforce was formed to follow up for more intelligence and identify the source.
“I must say we led a successful operation which resulted in the demolition of all the equipment being used – that is the changfans, canoes, among others – those that are pollutants were taken from the river,” he said.
He indicated that although the illegal miners managed to escape, in the next unannounced one, they would be taken by surprise and “we will apprehend all those engaged in it – the laws are clear now and we will get them and put them before the law court.”
“Let me say that we have resolved to continue to fight the illegal mining activities in the Western Region, and nothing will stop us. It is a collective agenda, therefore we urge members of the communities not to relent in giving out information on those activities,” he said.
Mr. Darko-Mensah assured the communities that any information given them would be acted upon immediately at the district or municipal assembly levels.
“We are committed as a government to fighting this menace and to protect our water bodies, forest reserves and I must commend the district chief executives, the chiefs and people, the opinion leaders for their support,” he said.
For his part, the Nzema East Municipal Chief Executive, Mr. Frank Okpenyen, urged the youth interested in mining to explore the community mining option triggered by the government and stop the illegal approach which the whole country is against.
He said it was important for those using the illegal method to know that the mining act had been reviewed and the punishments were very severe.
The government has always been proactive in ensuring the space is regularised to enable people who wish to do mining to be trained and put into identifiable groups to mine responsibly under the community mining programme.
“Let me say that those who mounted the equipment illegally on the river were lucky they escaped but next time we would contain them and make sure they face the law,” Mr. Okpenyen said.