The Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, has said the government will deploy Marine Police and Naval personnel to reinforce the Operation Vanguard task force which is fighting illegal small-scale mining in the country.
He said the immediate involvement of Marine policemen and Naval officers would help remove hundreds of floating mining machines, commonly known as ‘Chanfans’, used by illegal miners in river beds and which polluted water bodies.
Mr Nitiwul announced the plan last Tuesday when he, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery; the Chief of the Defence Staff, Lt Gen. Obed Akwa, as well as other top security chiefs, visited members of Operation Vanguard in Tarkwa, Obuasi and Osino.
The high-powered delegation interacted with the task force and also donated GH¢34,000 to them on behalf of the government to boost their morale.
The Defence Minister said the coming on board of the two security units would consolidate the successes the military and the police task force had already achieved in less than a month since it began work.
Currently, the 400-man task force is made up of 200 soldiers and 200 policemen.
Responding to concerns expressed by the Commander of Operation Vanguard, Colonel William Agyapong, Mr Nitiwul said “galamsey has led to the diversion of many rivers that do not flow normally again and if people will get water to drink and children born today will see fish in a river and say it is fresh fish, it is because of the good work the task force is doing.”
He expressed appreciation to local communities and their leadership, including the security forces, but appealed to affected communities to extend more support to the task force.
The operations are presently confined to Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, Osino in the Eastern Region and Tarkwa in the Western Region — areas where most illegal mining activities are undertaken, either near or in rivers.
However, most of the galamsey sites remain difficult terrains which the commander of the task force described as “inaccessible and dangerous”.
Col Agyapong told the government delegation that due to the inaccessibility of the riverine illegal mining areas, galamsey operators, who used canoes, were able to out-smart the task force and escaped arrest.
He added that many of the task force members did not know how to swim, a situation which he said “compromised the safety of our men”.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to quickly bring on board personnel from the Marine Police and the Ghana Navy to protect water bodies and consolidate the gains achieved by the task force.
New political will
For his part, Mr Dery expressed satisfaction that the joint operation between the military and the police had injected a new spirit that would serve as a blueprint for future joint operations.
He added that there was a political will to rid the country of indiscipline, crime and impunity and appealed to the task force not to allow itself to be induced by any individual in its fight against galamsey.