From Isaac Akwetey-Okunor,
The commitment level and sense of patriotism demonstrated by the Operation Vanguard Taskforce, the anti-illegal mining taskforce set up by government is fiercely challenged following delays in the prosecution of suspected illegal miners who they arrest during their operations.
Speaking at a stakeholder’s forum organised by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey at Akyem Osino in the Eastern Region, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Operation Vanguard Taskforce, Squadron Leader Robison Omane-Agyei, stated that the situation was worrying and demoralising.
He, therefore, appealed to prosecutors and the courts to fast-track the prosecution of accused illegal miners, as well as apply maximum punishment stipulated in the Minerals and Mining Act to serve as a deterrent.
The Squadron Leader further stated that apart from the low rate of prosecution, the Operation Vanguard Taskforce is faced with challenges such us inadequate vehicles, lack of low loaders to transport seized excavators, and unavailability of drones to monitor illegal miners who sneak to their illegal mines.
According to him, the Operation Vanguard Taskforce has impounded a total of 2,448 arms and ammunition, made up of 101 varied weapons and 2,347 ammunitions from galamsey (illegal mining) sites, since it began operation in July 2017.
Squadron Leader Robison Omane-Agyei, however, continued that most of these weapons were illegally acquired by the miners.
According to him, the task force has seized a total of 548 excavators, out of which 215 have been confiscated and handed over to the various district assemblies for use, and others immobilised.
Also, 1,447 water pumping machines have been impounded.
Additionally, the Taskforce has impounded 79 vehicles, 71 motorbikes and 5,271 changfai machines from galamsey sites nationwide.
On his part, Nii Laryea Sowah Kenteman, a member of the Media Coalition Against Galamsey, disclosed that the Coalition is committed to sustaining the fight until the environment is secured.
He explained that the devastation caused to the environment by the illegal miners will take not less than 50 years for the environment to return to its natural state.
He said the Coalition had petitioned major stakeholders to remedy challenges debilitating against the Operation Vanguard Taskforce, with a call on the Foreign Affairs Ministry to repatriate Chinese nationals arrested for illegal mining.