The Nkawie Forest District in the Ashanti Region over the past three years have arrested 40 illegal miners who encroached on forest reserves to undertake illegal mining.
Out of the figure, 17 of them including 12 foreigners from Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Mali had been convicted and serving prison terms for various forest and mining offences.
Nana Poku Bosompim, the Nkawie District Manager of the Forestry Commission, made the disclosure on Sunday when the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu and his entourage visited the Tano Offin Forest Reserve, to acquaint himself with the extent of encroachment on the forest by illegal miners.
Nana Bosompim said the Commission received more than GHc800,000.00 as fines and damages from offenders who were arrested, prosecuted and fined by the court.
He said the District office had recorded six cases of mining encroachment at Asanayo Forest Reserve, Offin Shelter Belt Forest Reserve and Tano Offin Forest Reserve with 12 hectares of the forest affected.
According to him, the court implored the offenders to reclaim the affected forest areas and paid fines and compensation to the Commission.
Nana Bosompim commended Nkawie Circuit Court Judge, Mr Johnson Abbey, for handling the cases expeditiously.
He appealed to the government to resource the District office with logistics and engage more forest guards to undertake monitoring of the forest reserves, which had been declared by the United Nations as global biodiversity significant areas in view of their rich floral, butterfly and animal species.
He commended residents of the forest fringe communities for providing timely information to the forest guards about encroachment, saying prevention of forest encroachment was a collective responsibility.
Mr John Peter Amewu, the Sector Minister, commended the Nkawie Forest District Office for their efforts to prevent destruction of the forest in spite of limited logistics and staff.
He said the Commission needed 400 personnel to ensure effective monitoring of the forest reserves and indicated that the Lands Ministry would apply to the Ministry of Finance for clearance in order to recruit more guards.
With regard to the impact the ban on illegal mining had made so far, the Minister said it was too early to measure the impact and indicated that, ridding-off miners from operating in water bodies was very urgent to the Ministry now.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kweku Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John, noted that forest provides good ventilation to the residents of the fringe