The Operation Vanguard, a joint Military-Police Taskforce set up by the government to enforce the ban on illegal mining activities have embarked on 233 operations since its formation about three months ago.
He was speaking about the genesis and operations of the Taskforce at a fifth Town hall Meeting organised by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG) in collaboration with the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) with funding support from Star Ghana.
The other four in the series were held at Manso Nkwanta, Dunkwa on Offin, Kyebi and Wassa-Akropong in the Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Western Regions respectively.
The meeting created the opportunity among other objectives for the organisers and other stakeholders to move to galamsey endemic communities to educate and update the people about the damage caused to the nation’s water bodies, lands and forest through the activities of galamsey operators.
It was also to sensitise them on the need to support the government in enforcing the ban and informed them about what the government’s policy of the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) entailed and its benefits to the country, individuals and communities when implemented.
Lt. Col. Hlorse explained that the Taskforce was formed by government with the primary mission to prevent illegal mining activities but not to kill anybody or destroy anyone’s property.
Instead, he indicated, the galamsey operations were at serious uncontrollable levels and its devastating effects were the pollution of the environment and water bodies as well as land and forest degradation which meant an imminent grave health hazard and was socio-economically suicidal for the country.
Hence, Lt. Col. Hlorse added President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo established the Taskforce through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources within a period, initially for six months to sanitise the system before the implementation of the MMIP.
But, he said some of the illegal miners were wielding deadly weapons to ward them off from their operational sites and therefore there was the need to arm themselves as a matter of self-defense.
He said in addition to the 515 offenders arrested, 1859 floating devices used by the ‘galamseyers’ on the surface of waters bodies had been destroyed.
Lt. Col. Hlorse mentioned that their operations had occurred in the Eastern, Western and Ashanti Regions, saying that specifically within eight Districts each in the Eastern and Western and 10 in Ashanti.
He said the residents had given them the needed cooperation in all the communities they had carried out operations and indicated that “we have been safe, operationally we have had no incident, it is going well for us”.
Lt. Col. Hlorse stressed that they would not fire gunshot at anywhere if there was absolute cooperation from the illegal mining operators.
Dr Isaac Karikari, the acting Coordinator of the national MMIP, in a slide presentation described it as “indeed an ambitious programme by the government and an alternative to galamsey”.
He clarified that the ban on galamsey operations did not mean that the government was anti-mining but the irresponsible and illegal way mining was done that must be stopped to prevent the looming danger of the total destruction of the nation’s lands and natural resources.