Eleven persons are serving prison sentences between five and 15 years for engaging in illegal mining activities in the Atewa forest reserve in the Eastern Region.
The perpetrators are among 55 other persons arrested by a task force between January and April 2022 in the Atewa mining reserve.
The Judge presiding over the case brought to it by authorities of the Forestry Commission at the Koforidua Circuit Court B found the culprits guilty and handed them the sentence.
The Manager for the Eastern Regional Forestry Commission, Nana Poku Bosompim spoke to Citi News.
“A total of 55 persons have been arrested for engaging in illegal mining in the Atewa Forest Reserve on 16 different occasions. They have been sent to the Koforidua Police command for further interrogation and prosecution. There are 15 of these cases pending at the Koforidua Circuit Court B out of which 6 of the cases have been duly prosecuted. So these 11 persons have been handed custodial sentences between five to 15 years in addition to the payment of some fines.”
He also indicated that his outfit is putting in efforts to arrest more persons engaged in illegal mining in the region.
“We are getting informants collaborating with the communities to arrest more people. We are sending signals so we get those mining in the forest. If you are arrested and you are not, then you prove your innocence.”
Atewa forest was made a Designated Forest Reserve in 1926 and houses the headwaters of the Birim, Densu, and Ayensu rivers.
In recent times, there has been resistance from residents, traditional authorities, and civil society organizations protesting against any form of mining in the Forest.
The government also came under serious criticism over the decision to mine bauxite in the forest as part of a $2 billion Chinese infrastructure deal.
A common issue that has been raised by all the NGOs that have spoken up is the fact that the forest is recognized globally for its biodiversity and provides water for 5 million Ghanaians.