Two extremely serious allegations have recently been made against the soldiers and policemen in ‘Operation Vanguard’, who are trying to save water-bodies, our rivers and farms from the destruction caused by the people engaged in galamsey.
One claimed that a member of the personnel of the “National Security” (sic) was trying to arrange for galamseyers to obtain land for galamsey purposes – at a cost of “$20,000”!
The other reported a Member of Parliament as having alleged that some Operation Vanguard members were conniving with some officers within the Ghana Police Service to extort money from illegal miners and allowing them to mine.
These reports are totally irresponsible. If someone says he can procure services from “National Security”, without naming who his contacts are, or which branch they operate in, is it worth publication? Is it not clear that the person may be impersonating officials in solicitation for funds – $20,000 no less?
The statement attributed to the Member of Parliament is also regrettable. As an MP, he has the right to ask a question in Parliament about any rumours he hears. Not only that – as an MP from the same party as the minister who is charge of the police, he can call the minister directly and confidentially pass any information he’s got to him. The minister would then institute an official investigation by the police. Going on the radio or television to air the issue is not in the spirit of the collective responsibility that should bind together, all the MPs from the same party. For if an NPP MP makes allegations against the NPP government, it reflects on ALL members of the NPP who attained their positions through the party and who will therefore be automatically associated with both the party’s successes and – especially – its failures.
A second reason why the allegations are unfortunate is that the Inter-Ministerial committee in charge of Operation Vanguard is in the process of evaluating the performance of the Task Force, with a view to deciding whether it should go on or be called off. Therefore, any misguided allegations against the Task Force can obfuscate the hard-headed decisions that have to be made about its future; decisions which should be made on the basis of VERIFIED FACTS, and not mere rumours.
Actually, the PRO of Operation Vanguard has also been reported to have told the media that the Operation has achieved about 75% of its objectives, which suggests that it can be wound up soon. I think this is too optimistic. What is the size of the operational area of the Operation? Is it 10,000 square kilometres, or 20,000?
If it is 10,000, then it means Operation Vanguard has ridden 7,500 square kilometres of galamsey operations; if 20,000, then 15, 000 sq. km. would have been cleared. Are such figures verifiable? I doubt it because the galamseyers are extremely crafty and have learnt to operate like guerrillas – they “hit-and-run”! When they operate in a water body and obtain information that Operation Vanguard is nearby, they move away very fast and go to another pre-arranged site. In other words, they melt into the countryside and operate within it “like a fish in water”.
The Minister of the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, who is chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee On Illegal Mining, showed awareness of these factors when he addressed journalists at his “Meet The Press” presentation in Accra on Tuesday, 10 April 2018. On when the ban on illegal mining would be lifted, the minister said:
… We don’t want to go back to the bad old days. [So] all the agencies (Ministry of Lands, the Minerals Commission, the Forestry Commission, the Water Resources Commission and and my Ministry) … all have various task to do. The inspection division of the Minerals Commission was very weak; that is why we went into this problem. So the government has given it resources to strengthen the inspecting division…. The chief executive has announced that they are going to employ 540 individuals, who are going to be trained as inspectors. They are also going to set up three new mining districts and twelve sub-districts. The inspectors are going to be provided with motor bikes and vehicles, so that the inspection can be …. more robust.
….One thing we are doing now is the application of drones. We are working closely with our colleagues from the University of Mines in Tarkwa. We have acquired some more drones and if you see our new reports, you will be impressed. With the drones, we will be able to detect, in real time, what people are doing. Two weeks ago, there was a mining company operating in the Kibi area. What they do is that, during the day, they would heap up the [gold-bearing gravel] and wash it. Whilst doing that, they would block the access to the river. But in the evening, they would [drive the stuff] into the river and you would never know who did it. By providence, our drones were working and we caught them!
….So we believe that, with the increasing use of technology, we will be able to limit human intervention. That is, we can modify the activities of Operation Vanguard. Maybe we can reduce their numbers. When we use the drones, we will know where there is something going on; we can get the exact coordinates and give them to Operation Vanguard, and maybe they can use a helicopter to zoom in to the site. And also, we are going to restore the rivers. I assure you that the monitoring will be more intense, even after the ban is lifted. So the rivers will never go back to this situation again.
By Cameron Duodu