In a passionate appeal to Regional and District Forest Mangers in illegal mining endemic areas, Benito Owusu-Bio, the Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, responsible for Lands and Forestry charged the officers of the Forestry Commission to rise up and join the fight against illegal mining as he noted that the menace is gradually creeping into the country’s forest reserves.
He lamented saying “the days of illegal mining menace being a challenge on only water bodies and lands are over, now it is gradually getting into the forest reserves and if we do not rise up now, tomorrow may be too late. We must rise up to ensure that the forests are protected from this canker”.
This meeting, held in Kumasi on Friday, 14th October 2022, follows the President of the Republic’s call on all stakeholders to take up active roles and marshal efforts to support central government in the combat against the illegal mining menace (galamsey).
Mr. Benito in his address advised the managers to move out of their comfort zones and offices to the field and join forest rangers if necessary, as all efforts are needed to ensure that the forests are not swallowed up in the illegal mining menace.
He warned that government and the Ministry will not accept the excuses some managers give being “I am not aware of this”, indicating strongly that strict sanctions will be meted out to mangers in whose Districts or Regions turns to have illegalities without their knowledge.
He, therefore, encouraged the managers to report whatever they see in their Districts and Regions without fear or favour, and promised the support of government to help them achieve their aim of protecting the forest reserves, and its environs.
The Deputy Minister noted that government is aware of the challenges that constrain their work but with or without challenges “we must utilise the little we have for now and work diligently to reverse the old-aged galamsey”.
Mr. Owusu-Bio reiterated that government has not issued any prospecting permit or licence for any Small Scale Mining industry whatsoever, not even for the Community Mining Schemes and “so any form of mining ongoing in a Forest Reserve that is not a large scale like that of Newmont and Chirano Mines, is illegal and must be stopped”. He pointed out.
Speaking to the media after the meeting with the managers, the Deputy Lands and Forestry Minister called on all and sundry to help in the fight against the menace saying “it is no longer a matter of this is for government, it concerns all of us and so if you see something, say something” while he encouraged them to call the Ministry’s contact centre with any information relating to these illegalities.
Mr. John Allotey the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission in his statement disclosed that his outfit is considering the setting up of a Mining Unit under the Forestry Service Division to help coordinate and collate information relating to mining in the various Forest Reserves across the country, who will be dedicated and always ready with real-time information on the reserves.
He also announced that there will soon be an increase in the duties of the Rapid Response Team as the Military attachés have been withdrawn, charging them to beef up their activities to complement the responsibilities ahead.
He indicated that illegal mining makes more devastating impact than the illegal logging they are familiar with, and therefore a more drastic approach must be devised to boot it out of the system.
“Unlike illegal logging that takes away essential tree species which can regenerate after some time, illegal mining makes more devastating effects, it takes off the trees and the topsoil that could aid replanting or regeneration, the land is destroyed and it goes all the way to affect our water bodies. Additionally, we also have to contend with people who are armed, so that is obviously worse and therefore the strategy mush change”
He also urged the managers to work collaboratively with the Traditional authorities, District Chief Executives and the Regional Ministers as they embark on consultative meetings, all in efforts to avoid lapses and encourage effective flow of information so that no one is left out.
Mr. Allotey also implored the managers to collaborate with the Minerals Commission and report suspected cases of illegal mining whether in the forest reserves or outside the Reserves for coordinates to be taken and further actions applied.