A total of 22 illegal miners including two females were over the weekend rounded up in a joint police cum to curb the growing menace of “galamsey” in some communities in the Wa West District of the region.
The arrest followed a swoop conducted at Joleriyiri by a combined force of personnel from the Ghana Police Service and the Air force stationed at Tamale.
However, many of the “galamseyers” who got wind of the arrival of the security forces, managed to escape into the bush leaving behind their equipment used in their operations.
Among the items retrieved at the site were shovels, pick axes, milling machines and mineral detecting equipment, the illegal miners were using for their activities.
The team also took custody of motorbikes some of which had foreign registration numbers, indicating that non- Ghanaians were also involved in the illegal mining in the area and two shot guns at the site.
Addressing the media after the operation, the deputy Upper West Regional Commander of the Police Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Dr. Shaibu Gariba who led the operation said on March 20, the police received information of the influx of people, including foreigners in Wa West District, engaging in illegal activities including mining.
He said the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) decided to flush out the illegal miners.
Dr. Gariba said “Considering what illegal mining was doing to the country and especially in the Upper West Region, we saw this as a security threat to the whole region and Wa in particular so we decided to act quickly.”
He said the team would sustain the operation until illegal mining was stopped.
The Commanding Officer for the Air force at Tamale Lieutenant Colonel Joe Malik bemoaned the wanton destruction of the environment, and water bodies by activities of illegal miners.
Lt. Col. Malik said “Not quiet long ago some people were shot somewhere in a mining area so we don’t have to sit down until we reach that stage, we have to nib everything in the bud immediately we see it. This thing started not long ago and see the devastation going on here so if we hadn’t come and waited for six months we can imagine the problems they would have caused for us,” he stressed.
The Regional Security Coordinator, Mr. Sylvester Boyuo, said that there was a long standing land dispute where the mineral deposits had been found, and could escalate as a result of the payment of royalties by these illegal miners.
He said the security was picking up intelligence that other communities were joining in claiming ownership of the land, and this could spark conflict.
About 200 men drawn from the police and military took put in the operations.