he Deputy Lands Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, responsible for Lands Forestry Hon. Benito Owusu-Bio has sounded a clear warning to illegal miners to stay off forest reserves as he stressed that regardless of positions, they will be driven out and sanctioned.”
No matter who you are, we don’t care, if you enter the forest reserves we will drive you out and sanction you as well”
He intimated that the forest reserves are not for mining but was quick to add that unless for exceptional cases like that of Chirano mines and Newmont who have been granted legal licences to operate “but that doesn’t mean that anyone can just jump into the forest to mine and if we find you like that, we will deal with you”
The Deputy Minister said this when he paid a working visit to Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve to ascertain the veracity of news of Akonta Mining Company still operating in the forest even after the directive by the Lands Minister to the Forestry Commission to halt the company’s operations in the Forest through a Press Release on 30th September 2022.
It will be recalled that the Ministry’s Press statement pointed out that “while Akonta Mining Limited has a mining lease to undertake mining operations in some parts of Somreboi, outside the Forest Reserve, the company has no mineral rights to undertake mining operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve.
After an aerial view of the entire forest, Hon. Benito Owusu-Bio and his team spotted about three sites in the forests with some equipment but no operations and immediately charged the forestry officers to burn and decommission everything on the site upon arrival.
The team also discovered a different group of illegal miners, working along the banks and edges of the river and a few in the forest. Per the map guiding that aerial view 98% of the miners were outside the restricted area, which is the banks and edges while the remaining 2% worked in the Forest reserves themselves. It could however not be determined which mining company these miners belong to.
Addressing the issue of this new group of illegal miners found mining on the river he said “these are not small scale miners, these are obviously people who are just burnt on destroying our forests, waterbodies and the entire environment but I cannot tell whether that is Akonta or any other company because this is not organised so I can say it’s purely illegal mining that is going on there!”
He assured the media that as a matter of urgency the Ministry will unleash Operations halt II to the area with speed boats and the right equipment will bring a halt to all activities ongoing in the river. “With what we have seen here, I will report to the Minister and we would immediately see how we can strategize and bring the operations to a halt with the speed boats recently procured to chase them out”
He also noted that together with the Forestry Commission and Samartex, a timber company in the enclave they will soon beef up the number of forest guards who patrol the 300sq kilometre forest with support from the military.
The Deputy Lands Minister warned that with the help of the military, the Ministry and the Forestry Commission will embark on similar operations in all forest reserves across the country to ensure they rid all forests of illegalities of any sort. “This will not stop here, we know this is not the only forest reserve under attack and so we will continue to ensure all forest with any illegal activity is brought under scrutiny”
Hon. Benito called on the community members and traditional leaders of the Amenfi West Municipality of the Western Region to join in the fight against illegal mining for their own sake and for the betterment of the environment and the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr John Allotey on his part gave details to the extent of the devastation saying out of a total area of 205sq kilometres, close to about 0.12sq kilometres of the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve has been impacted by the illegal activities.
He noted that since August when the Commission started having the challenge of groups trooping into the forest to mine, the Commission has sent out the military to the area about 8 times all in an effort to keep them out of the forest.
He assured that heeding the directives of the Hon. Minister, the Commission is committed to ensuring that all those found culpable in this matter will be dealt with in accordance with the Law.