A visit to some illegal mining sites by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, his deputy, Benito Owusu-Bio and officials of the Minerals Commission in the Eastern Region on Wednesday to mark the end of a three-week ultimatum served on illegal miners, revealed that some galamseyers had withdrawn from their sites.
Mr. Amewu told the media during the tour that the number of excavators that had been evacuated from the sites had increased to over 500, with about 1,148 dredging machines equally withdrawn.
According to the minister, about 200 of the excavators were withdrawn from Dunkwa, 120 from Asankrangwa, 40 from Tarkwa, among others.
He said the development was encouraging but the fight would still continue.
He blamed the Minerals Commission, particularly the Mines Inspectorate Directorate, for being responsible for the illegal mining activities across the country.
Mr Amewu indicated that no proper checks or inspections had been carried out at the small scale mining sites over the years by the Inspectorate Directorate, hence the increase in illegal mining activities.
The minister was speaking during an inspection of some mining sites at Kobrisu, Pinaman, Subrisu, among others, in the Denkyembuo, Upper West Akyem and Atiwa East Districts of the Eastern Region on Wednesday.
Mr. Amewu wondered why staff of the Commission could sit by and watch the illegal miners destroy the environment over the years.
“The landowners and people working at the Commission are also part of this nonsense,” the minister fumed.
He ordered the Chief Inspector of Mines and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Minerals Commission to immediately suspend the operations of those at the MA Resources site, located at Subrim and the abandoned site at Kobriso – all in the West Akyem District.
It emerged at MA Resources site that a concession was issued to the company (MA Resources) without the Chief Inspector of Mines, Obiri-Yeboah Twumasi, being made aware that the concession was for large scale mining.
Mr. Twumasi had told the minister that the MA Resources had been licensed to do regularized medium-scale mining, but the minister challenged that claim, saying there is nothing like medium-scale mining but only large or small scale – as it emerged that the company was doing large scale mining.
Mr Peter Amewu did not also accept the claim that MA Resources was engaged in legal mining, complaining that the company’s activities were illegal, having greatly destroyed cocoa farms, water bodies and the environment.
Seeing the extent of damage caused the environment and river bodies as a result of the galamsey activities, Mr. Amewu said the NPP government would not renege on its fight against illegal miners, and urged all those interested in small scale mining to engage government on the negotiation table.
When queried by the minister, the patron of the NPP in the Akwatia Constituency, one Akwesi, who is also operating on the MA Resources concession, admitted that he was mining illegally but argued that it was because the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration refused to grant him licence to operate legally due to his affiliation to the NPP.
On most of the sites visited, it appeared the illegal miners had been briefed about the minister’s visit and so most of them had apparently abandoned their operations and the excavators.
An inspector of mines at the Minerals Commission, Joseph Frimpong, explained how it only came to the notice of his outfit recently that some individuals were engaged in illegal mining at a site located at Kobrisu.
When the minister and the media visited that site, Mr. Frimpong said the illegal miners had vanished but some of their materials were still on site.
A count revealed over 60 excavators parked in bushes, in front of uncompleted buildings, mines and along the roads.
Information picked up by this paper points to a complex web of a cartel operating in the mining sector, which may make the fight apparently very difficult for the NPP government.
CEO of the Minerals Commission, Dr Tony Aubyne said there is a complex web of individuals engaged in the ‘galamsey’ business, saying politicians, chiefs and officials of the Commission are all involved in the act.
“I have long said that the nature of the illegality that is going on, you have a lot of people being involved,” he said in reaction to the minister’s claim that officials of the Commission are to blame for the menace.
By Melvin Tarlue