The Convenor of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, Kenneth Ashigbey, has hinted of plans to petition the Chief Justice and Attorney Genera,l to consider empowering the law courts to hand out harsh sentences to persons who engage in illegal mining in the country.
He is optimistic that stiff and harsh punishment meted to offenders, will serve as a deterrent to residents in most mining areas.
“When operation Vanguard and co arrest people and they take them to court, the prosecution is so bad. When it comes to foreigners, the Minerals and Mining Act talks about 30,000 to 300,000 penalty units, or from 10 to 30 years imprisonment. But we have a judge who is giving Chinese people who have been arrested GHc 2,400 fine when the minimum should have been GHc 360,000.00.”
“You have most of the Ghanaians who have just been fined GHc 2,400. That won’t be deterrent enough and it’s akin to all of us including operation vanguard and the media taking a basket to the riverside and hoping we will come back with water. It will not happen,” he lamented.
He commended government’s decision to deploy Operation Vanguard to partner other stakeholders in galamsey areas to fight the national canker that has had serious implications on the environment and water bodies.
Mr. Ashigbey made these observations at a Town Hall Meeting organized by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey in Kenyasi No1, in the Asutifi North District of the Brong Ahafo Region.
He said a lot had been achieved since the fight against galamsey was launched, and appealed to the media for support to sustain the campaign.
“If you monitor the situation on the ground now, you will realize we are gaining back our water bodies, immigration records show the influx of Chinese in the country has reduced, and there is even a proposal for them now to acquire visas when entering the country.”
He said lack of job opportunities and economic conditions, should not be used as justification to engage in the illegal act, as most of the places where galamsey takes place have the most fertile lands, whilst the most sustainable source of the country’s development is agriculture.
Mr. Ashigbey also lamented the sale of fertile lands to illegal miners, and appealed to landowners to protect and preserve the heritage left by the country’s forefathers for generations yet unborn.
He appealed to the government and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, to speed up the implementation of the government’s five-year Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP).
The second in command of Operation Vanguard, Chief Supt. Abraham Acquaye, urged residents to be law abiding as they were prepared to do everything possible to bring an end to the menace, in line with the laws of the country.
He said successive governments have all initiated several programmes, interventions and laws, to address illegal mining, but lamented they have not been successful, and therefore assured of their preparedness to help government and majority of Ghanaians whose rights are being abused to succeed.
He disclosed that, 515 illegal miners have so far been arrested, and put before a court, but lamented only 39 had been convicted.
He therefore expressed concern about the slow pace at which the Police and the Attorney General’s Department were handling the galamsey cases, and appealed to authorities to speed up the process.
Traditional authority’s role
The Omanhene of Kenyasi No.1 Traditional area, Nana Osei Kofi Abiri, who chaired the meeting, commended government and organizers of the programme for the initiative to sensitize the citizenry about the dangers of illegal mining.
He pledged the commitment of chiefs in the area to support the President and the country, to succeed in the fight against galamsey.
The Omanhene advised the youth to channel their energies into agriculture for their self-development and the district at large.
By: Mashoud Kombat, Brong Ahafo/citifmonline.com/Ghana