Illegal mining in forest reserve is existential threat to Ghana –FC

The Forestry Commission (FC) says the destructive effects of illegal mining in forest reserves on the environment are an existential threat to the country.

According to the Commission, even though the fight against illegal mining required extra efforts – with diverse approach, the Commission still remained committed to coming to grips with the menace.

In a statement signed by the Chief Executive and released in Accra on Tuesday, this week, it explained the serious socio-economic linkages of the illegal activity, hence the need to tackle it holistically.

The commission was responding to a Joy News hotline documentary on alleged illegal mining activities in the Apamprama Forest Reserve, in the Ashanti Region.

It said illegal alluvial gold mining has been ongoing for several decades along the banks of the Oda River, which flows through the reserve, until 2013, where illegal mining with heavy equipment (excavators) moved into the Apramprama Forest Reserve.

This action, the statement said, led to the arrest of three Chinese nationals and one Ghanaian.

So far, there have been a series of arrest of illegal miners in the reserve by the Forestry Commission, with an affected estimated area reported to be about 3 hectares.

The commission reported that with the 34 forest reserves across the country that have suffered incidences of illegal gold mining, three of these reserves are the places where the FC had challenges in dealing with the situation. “The other 31reserves were fairly under the control of the FC, notwithstanding occasional incursions by illegal miners,” it added.

“The Apamprama Forest Reserve is one of the three forest reserves where the Commission had challenges due to the associated violence exhibited by the armed perpetrators, in addition to the Oda River and Subin shelterbelt forest reserves,” the Commission’s statement revealed.

However, between May and July 2023, illegal miners were flushed out from these three forest reserves, with the support of military personnel from the Southern Command. During this period, five excavators and one bulldozer were seized, with one (1) excavator burnt in the Apamprama forest reserve. The statement further revealed.

“Additionally, an unspecified number of mining equipment and wooden structures used by the illegal miners were also destroyed in these 3 forest reserves,” it said.

Strategies and Interventions

As part of the strategies and interventions ultimately aimed at curbing illegal mining in forest reserves, the Commission has trained 964 of its frontline field officers by the military to boost law enforcement and support the fight against illegal mining and other forest offences within forest reserves.

Other measures, it said, included the procurement of one thousand pump action guns to boost morale and capacity of frontline staff to protect forest reserves, the seizure and decommissioning of equipment used for illegal mining in forest reserves, the intensification of surveillance, intelligence gathering, and monitoring of illegal mining activities in forest reserves to ensure early detection and arrest of perpetrators, among others.

Commendation and call for support

The FC commended the Multimedia Group for bringing to light the destruction of a large portion of the once lush forest reserve, adding that “We believe such documentaries help to draw attention to grave national issues, where public support is urgently required to address.”

It called on all traditional leaders and the general public to support the Forestry Commission by providing information on illegal mining in their communities and environs so that the Commission can act swiftly to deal with situations before or when they arise.

The statement assured that the commission was working with other agencies to provide sustainable alternative livelihood options, especially within communities where illegal mining takes place, to address the issue of youth unemployment and poverty.

“We are also looking to secure support to augment key logistical requirements, especially operational vehicles, drones, etc, to improve our operational and law enforcement capabilities and to enable the FC respond appropriately to this existential threat,” he ended.


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