Samuel Abu Jinapor
Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, says the government has relaunched Operation Halt II to clamp down on illegal mining activities and its devastating effect on the environment.
Speaking at a press briefing in Accra yesterday, Mr. Jinapor said the Operation Halt II team, made up of personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces, had been instructed to use their discretion whether to decommission or seize equipment, adding that this is to be done without any interference from any person whatsoever.
According to him, unlike the previous military operations which took three months, the new military campaign would be a sustained effort until the galamsey menace is brought to a “satisfactory situation.”
He disclosed that the government had allocated significant funds and logistical support for the operation being spearheaded by personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces.
He explained that the relaunch of the operation has come about as a result of the resurgence of illegal mining activities across the country, pointing out that the operation will run alongside other measures being implemented by the ministry.
He mentioned them as the declaration of river bodies as red zones for mining; the suspension of reconnaissance and prospecting activities in forest reserves, except in exceptional cases; the ban on the manufacture, sale and use of changfan; the procurement of speed boats to patrol the river bodies; and the recruitment of river guards to support the protection of the river bodies.
The rest are the introduction of mercury-free gold Katchas; the establishment of 83 Small Scale Mining Committees in all mining districts in the country; the revamping of Community Mining Schemes; and the introduction of the National Alternative Employment and Livelihood Programme which now engages about 80,000 people in alternative livelihood projects.
He noted that the team would be held accountable for anything that happens in its operations, and the members are, therefore, not supposed to take instructions from anyone, including him, the minister.
Mr. Jinapor said the ministry had furnished the military high command with details of all licenced mining operations in the country to guide them in their operations, and they will be assisted by mine inspectors and personnel from the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, to gather evidence for prosecution.
He said the government is committed to ensuring that anyone found culpable is made to face the full rigours of the law, while reiterating the call by President Akufo-Addo for the Minerals Commission to ensure that chiefs make an input into any application for a mineral right before a recommendation is made to the minister.
Mr. Jinapor also called on all citizens, and particularly the media, to assist the government to deal with this canker, asserting, the media must take a lead role in educating the general public about the consequences of illegal mining on current and future generations.
He again wants the media to highlight the punishment for engaging in illegal mining, and added that he was optimistic that with the support of the media and citizenry, the government will deal with the menace.
Ebenezer K. Amponsah