The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, says government will not waver in its efforts to rid the country’s water bodies of persons and logistics involved in illegal mining, otherwise known as galamsey.
He said although there had been lots of criticisms and resistance from certain quarters over military operation on River Pra due to the decommissioning and demobilisation of seized excavators, government took the hard decision to protect the water bodies and forest cover from destruction for the sake of the present and future generations.
Mr Jinapor made the remarks at the Minister’s press briefing in Accra to update the public on the success story of the second phase of ‘Operation Halt’.
The ‘Operation Halt II’ started on Friday, May 7, and ended on May 9, 2021, with deployment of 400 soldiers of all ranks to the tributaries of River Pra in the Eastern Region, from Daboase to Twifo Praso.
The operation also extended to portions of River Ofin in the Ashanti Region, which has been adversely affected by the activities of illegal miners.
The three-day operation, under the command of Brigadier-General Michael Ayisi Amoah, Commanding the Southern Command, led to the destruction of 28 excavators, 267 changfans (floating platforms), 18 pumping machines, five canoes, two pump action guns, and eight industrial batteries.
The military also launched air patrols in areas earmarked as “red zones”, which is 100 metres radius to the rivers.
No arrest was made because the illegal miners escaped from the red zones upon hearing the firing by the military.
Mr Jinapor said it was government’s ambition to ensure viable and sustainable mining practices and would work tirelessly towards achieving success in the small-scale mining enterprise.
The Minister said if the nation did not take immediate action against the galamsey menace, the country may have to import potable water in the next five years, hence the importance to ensure collective action to halt the illegal mining once and for all.
Mr Dominic Nitiwul, the Minister of Defence, said the military operation would be sustained until the water bodies returned to their natural state and gave the assurance that the soldiers would continue keeping aerial surveillance over those restricted zones.
Asked whether his office had instituted measures to prevent loss of innocent lives, he said, the soldiers were responsible and professional in their duties and would not target innocent people.
However, he could not guarantee that there would not be any loss of lives since accidents did happen in such operations.
“The military is not there to harass those doing legitimate mining but rid off all persons and logistics involved in illegal mining and so we’ll not target innocent people,” Mr Nitiwul assured.
He cautioned the citizenry to stay away from all “red zones”, and said government’s primary goal was to sanitize the environment and ensure viable and sustainable mining practices.