Twenty-one Ghanaians have been sentenced to a total of 340 years imprisonment by the Tarkwa Circuit Court for illegal mining (galamsey) in five different sites in the Western Region.
Apart from the jail terms, the court, presided over by Hathia Ama Manu, also imposed a fine of GH¢120,000 on each of the 21 convicts, totalling GH¢2.52 million.
The convicts were sentenced separately in five different cases with various prison terms of between 15 years and 20 years for engaging in illegal mining, contrary to Section 99 of the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, 2019 (Act 995).
They had pleaded not guilty to engaging in illegal mining, but the court found them guilty after it held that the prosecution, spearheaded by the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Office in Sekondi, proved its case beyond reasonable doubt to establish their guilt.
The court further sentenced each of the convicts to five years for conspiracy to engage in illegal mining.
All the sentences will run concurrently, meaning while the convicts serve their jail terms for illegal mining, they will also serve the terms for conspiracy to engage in illegal mining.
Mining in River Ankobra
Ten of the convicts were found guilty of mining in River Ankobra.
In the first case related to mining in River Ankobra, John Domotey and five others were arrested by a task force.
They were handed over to the police, together with their equipment, which included a detector machine, shovels and pickaxes, and were prosecuted on charges of illegal mining and conspiracy to engage in illegal mining.
The Tarkwa Circuit Court found them guilty and sentenced each of them to 15 years imprisonment in hard labour and a fine of 10,000 penalty units each (GH¢120,000).
With regard to the second case, on September 8, 2021, the assemblyman for Himan Electoral Area, Alex Baako, and some youth of the community arrested five persons engaging in galamsey on the River Ankobra with a mining dredge machine.
The five — Sampson Mefe, Eric Beyetua, Nkubi Francis, Timothy Kumordja, and Larbi Evans — were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment each in hard labour, as well as a fine of GH¢120,000 each.
One of the cases involved three illegal miners who were caught mining under a high-tension cable in Esuoso, Tarkwa.
While one of the illegal miners, George Fynn, was arrested and prosecuted, two of his accomplices, Effah and Christian, absconded and are still at large.
The court found Fynn guilty of illegal mining and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment in hard labour and a fine of GH¢120,000.
Four of the convicts — Gordon Naa, Bismark Joribon, Abdulai Asongmene and Nicholas Dunuanua — also engaged in illegal mining at the Ndumfri forest reserve, near Simpa, in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality.
They were arrested by some officials of Forestry Commission led by the Range Manager, Kojo Amoo, on February 21, 2021.
It was the case of the prosecution that after the arrest of the illegal miners, it was discovered that their activities had destroyed one-and-a-half acres of the forest reserve.
The four illegal miners were each slapped with a 15-year jail term and a fine of GH¢120,000 each.
However, a juvenile accomplice was referred to the Juvenile Court for trial.
In another case, five illegal miners, Richard Kumasi and four others, were also arrested and charged with illegal mining and conspiracy to commit illegal mining.
Each was convicted and slapped with a 20-year jail term with hard labour and a fine of GH¢120,000 each.
727 on trial
In January this year, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, revealed to the Daily Graphic that a total of 727 individuals were currently standing trial across the country over their alleged involvement in illegal mining.
“On the average, a typical galamsey case involves the arrest and prosecution of at least six or seven individuals.
Most of the cases are prosecuted in the region in which the arrests were affected,” the A-G said.
As part of efforts to combat the illegal mining menace, Parliament in 2019 imposed stiffer punishment on those engaged in the devastating activity which had destroyed many water bodies and forest reserves in the country.
Parliament therefore amended the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) and came out with Act 995.
Under Section 99 of Act 995, a Ghanaian who engages in illegal mining or commands, instigates or employs others to engage in illegal mining commits an offence and is liable, upon summary conviction, to a fine of not less than 10,000 penalty units (GH¢120,000) and not more than 15,000 penalty units (GH¢180,000) and to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years.
For a foreigner who engages in illegal mining, Act 995 stipulates a fine of not less than 100,000 penalty units (GH¢1.2m) and not more than 300,000 penalty units (GH¢3.6m) and a term of imprisonment of not less 20 years and not more than 25 years, or to both the fine and the term of imprisonment.
Mr Dame said the passage of Act 995 in 2019 was a clear demonstration by the government that it was serious about the fight against galamsey.
“The new punishment regime is in contrast to the situation under Act 703 passed in 2006, which prescribed a penalty of a minimum of three thousand penalty units or imprisonment of not more than five years for the offence of trading in minerals and mining without a licence,” the A-G said.