An Appeals Court judge, Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei, has appealed to judges and prosecutors to make a conscious effort to help fight the menace of illegal mining (galamsey) in the country.
He was speaking at a two-day capacity building seminar for selected judges of High, Circuit and District Courts, as well as prosecutors on the Mineral and Mining Amendment Act 2015 (900).
According to Justice Adjei, illegal mining was causing more harm to lands, crops and water bodies, and appropriate punishment needed to be meted out to offenders.
He, therefore, told prosecutors to know their proper forum of prosecution and the right charges to enable the judges to apply the appropriate penalties to the offenders, adding “go to the proper court to prefer the charges”.
“As we all know, the effect of the illegal mining activity is inimical to the environment, it affects food production; and efforts should be made to cure this menace.
When a person is arrested for engaging in illegal mining activity, the fullest independent investigation must be made into the matter and the person arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate punishment to be imposed if the person is convicted,” Justice Adjei advised.
“The act has six regulations, which are: Mineral and Mining General Regulations 2012, L.I. 2073; Mineral and Mining Support Services Regulation 2012, L.I. 2174; Minerals and Mining Compensation and Resettlement Regulation 2012, L.I. 2175” Minerals and Mining Licensing Regulation 2012, L.I. 2176; “Minerals and Mining Exclusive Regulation 2012, L.I. 2177; and “Mineral and Mining Technical Regulations 2012, L.I. 2182”.
He said the regulations had criminal sanctions and offenders could be charged and arraigned before competent court of jurisdiction, but cautioned that said “the circuit courts should not assume jurisdiction where there is no jurisdiction to avoid their cases being thrown out”.
He pointed out that “the mineral and mining law is a specialised area of law and so, it cannot be treated as an option, appendix or an aspect of any discipline of law”.
Mr Amponsah Tawiah, Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines (Policy) inspectorate division, Minerals Commission, reminded the public that small scale mining was prohibited in water bodies (and such activities should be 100 meters away), areas within township, wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves, cemeteries, mausoleums, sacred groves, areas earmarked for developmental projects by municipal and district assemblies.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Alexander Ackon, was worried that illegal miners were left to go free by the courts without any convictions, to continue their nefarious activities because of bottlenecks and lack of clarity in terms of prosecutorial and judicial procedures and processes.
Calling for an effective and efficient system to be developed to stem the tide of illegal mining, the Minister urged chiefs and people within communities where illegal mining activities take place, to cooperate with the relevant legal state actors and institutions to ensure “we rid our communities of the illegal mining that takes our precious minerals away leaving behind poverty, environmental degradation and diseases.
From Kingsley E. Hope, Kumasi