The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, has denied allegations that he is involved in illegal small-scale mining, also known as galamsey despite the government’s blanket ban on all forms of small-scale mining.
According to him, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) minority which made the allegations have been misled by rumors started by a traditional leader that he [Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie] was involved in the illegal activity.
Speaking on Eyewitness News on Tuesday, Mr. Afriyie, popularly called Sir John, said the only activity ongoing at the site being referred to by the minority was a reclamation exercise authorized by the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry.
Sir John, and the NPP’s Ashanti Regional Chairman, Bernard Antwi Boasiako, aka Chairman Wontumi, have both been accused of engaging in the illegal activity by the minority in Parliament.
But Sir John, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, said: “They [minority] are reacting to rumors that a certain Odikro of somewhere has been talking about.”
He explained that “we have an area called Kobro in the Bekwai Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region where we have a reclamation exercise going on, and it is at the area that some people are alleging that there is some galamsey exercise going on there.”
“I want to state emphatically that we have not engaged in any illegal activities. What is true is the fact that we gave some contract to a company to undertake a reclamation exercise as a result of a letter given to me by the Minister authorizing me to do such exercises. Several companies have been engaged, not only in the Ashanti Region, but in the Eastern Region, Western Region, and it is nationwide…I am not involved in mining and nobody is mining on my behalf,” he added.
But the Minority spokesperson on Mines and Energy, Adams Mutawakilu, who addressed the press on the matter insisted on his claims, saying while Sir John and the Forest Commission claimed that the site was for a reclamation program, a recent operation by members of the government’s anti-illegal mining task-force, Operation Vanguard there revealed that they were illegally mining.
“They mounted a billboard to indicate that there is reclamation ongoing. That means Forestry Commission is aware of it. Operation vanguard invaded the place and that was not the case…. It was evident that they were not doing any reclamation. They couldn’t prove any area they had reclaimed. In fact, they were busily mining.”
He added that the task-force seized some equipment such as excavators, guns among others, and some arrested people including illegal Chinese miners.
He said the minority independently gathered the information through an investigation is carried out. He says they have information on similar activities in other parts of the country that will be put out later.
“We went on the ground and did our own investigation. We haven’t even completed. We have three more areas to go and conclude to come out fully,” he told host Umaru Sanda Amadu.
But Sir John insisted that the seizure of the equipment was not linked to an illegal mining activity and that it became necessary because the reclamation exercise has been temporarily suspended across the country.
On the claims of arrest, Sir John said the Chinese nationals were not specifically arrested at the site in question.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wontumi has also denied the claims and has threatened to drag the minority to court over the allegation.