The Operation Halt II team has on Monday arrested 26 suspects, found operating at an illegal mining site, popularly known as galamsey, and also engaging in other poor environmental practices, at Patase, Wassa Dunkwa, in the Wassa Amenfi East District of the Western Region.
The suspects, including four Togolese, were found engaging in illegal mining, sand winning and lumbering, in defiance of government’s ban placed on these activities that continued to wreak havoc on the environment and water bodies, including River Tano.
The Ghana Armed Forces deployed soldiers of all ranks to begin the second phase of ‘Operation Halt’ to rid the country’s water bodies of illegal miners. It is aimed at removing all logistics and persons involved in illegal mining on water bodies.
The arrest of the 26 suspects followed an order by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources,Mr George Mireku Duker, when he was accompanied by journalists and a team of “OperationHaltII” personnel, aboard a Ghana Airforce aircraft, to conduct an aerial assessment of ‘Operation Halt II, atWassaDunkwa.
The deputy minister also asked KwasiAddaeto produce a permit authorising him to engage in lumbering at Patase.
“Send those suspects to the nearest Police station for prosecution. The law will be made to work to address the problem.” Mr Duker instructed.
The operation led by General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, Brigadier General Michael KwakuAmoahAyisiand the Second-in-Command, Operation Halt 11, Lieutenant Colonel Harrison Dadzie, revealed an expanse area devasted by illegal mining atWassaDunkwa.
Aerial view of the site showed total destruction of the forest cover as the illegal miners had dug deep craters as big as three football fields with pool of stagnant water.
Thegalamseyershad also diverted the tributaries of River Tanoon which they mounted Chan Fan machines and generators to mine gold ore.
The long and labyrinthine river water, which looked dirty, bleak,brown and polluted, criss-crossed makeshift houses built along the river banks.
Additionally, trees in the rich, green and virgin forest had been felled to pave way for illegal gold mining, posing danger to farmers.
Soon as the team disembarked, they encountered a tipper truck at WassaDunkwa loaded with sand, and MrDukerordered the sand should be offloaded.
He condemned the uncontrolled sand winning at illegal mining sites the galamsey site, where deep holes had been dug to aggravate the situation, and, asked whether they would drink the very water they destroyed.
MrDuker told the suspects, “Drink the water, now you are afraid. You must stop this bad behaviour. You are destroying this beautiful country, the virgin environment, and fishes in the rivers. Why do you win sand and destroy the water bodies. If our forebearers had done these, we wouldn’t have come to meet these valuable national assets.”
Lt Col. Dadzie noted that the suspects, who could not name the owner of the WassaDunkwa site, were the same people who win sand and fell lumber in the area,and, wondered how four Togolese found their way to Ghana.
Meanwhile, Brig. General Amoah-Ayisihas said that so far, 11offenders have been prosecuted and jailed.
FROM CLEMENT ADZEI BOYE, WASSA DUNKWA