Following the action by the military to heavily crack down on activities of illegal mining in the country which started in April this year, some of the highly polluted river bodies started showing signs of its past glory and River Ankrobra was no exception.

But, few months after the river started showing signs of recovery, the galamsey operators are back on site with vengeance destroying the river again.

Located in the Western Region of Ghana, River Ankobra flows about 120 miles (190 km) southwards into the Gulf of Guinea from the northeast of Wiawso and the river’s meeting point with the sea/Atlantic Ocean is at the village of Sanwoma. The river acts as the boundary between Ellembelle District and the Nzema East Municipal Assembly and has been a major source of drinking water in the region including fishing activities.

But the river had for many years witnessed heavy pollutions due to the illegal mining activities in, alongside and close to the river body and it was a very welcome news for many Ghanaians when President Akufo-Addo in April this year directed the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to stop all mining activities within forest reserves and in water bodies.

Flatter to deceive

Dubbed ‘Operation Halt’, a statement signed by Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah at the time said, “In furtherance of the resolutions of the final communique, of the Stakeholder Dialogue on Small Scale Mining on April 14 -15, 2021 and to ensure that mining within water bodies is immediately stopped; the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has authorized the Ghana Armed Forces, to commence an operation, to remove all persons and logistics involved in mining from Ghana’s water bodies”.

Immediately after the directive, the Military went into action chasing out the illegal miners and burning excavators and other mining equipment found on illegal sites.

Many were those who hailed the action by the Military but little did they anticipate that; it would be short lived.

Thus, the Public Relations Directorate of GAF not long after the taskforce had started the exercise hinted that, the illegal small-scale miners have returned to sites that were cleared by the Operation Halt II team.

A statement signed by GAF’s Public Relations Director, Col. Eric Aggrey Quarshie on April 28 said, “recent reconnaissance missions showed that there were still some illegal mining activities going on in some of the areas that had hitherto been cleared by Operation Halt II”.

“These illegal activities were mostly being done in the night or under the cover of darkness protected by armed guards, as used cartridges were found at the sites”, the statement said, adding: “The Operation Halt II patrol that accompanies the team was ordered to destroy logistics found in these areas”.

A few days later, Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul said the anti-galamsey team would direct its focus on nocturnal miners.

At a press briefing in Accra, the Bimbilla MP said: “We know that they do that from 9 pm to 4 am”, indicating: “That’s how brave they are”.

“We know and we know the towns they are doing it in, so, we will come after you”, he warned, adding: “Don’t try it”.

“So, if you go out there to mine, I cannot guarantee your safety when the soldiers are going to apprehend you. So, I will advise you to not go out. It is not worth it.”

On his part, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, noted that, galamsey is an extraordinary problem that requires that extraordinary measures were taken.

Mr Jinapor made the submission during a debate on the decommissioning and demobilization of excavators.

According to him, “when a country is confronted with extraordinary problems, extraordinary measures are to be deployed. The use of excavators for mining on our water bodies is an extraordinary problem, which requires extraordinary measures to deal with it.”

He said further “I reiterate our unwavering commitment to getting on with this national crusade without fear or favor, blind to partisan political coloration blind to status in society. And with an absolute dedication, steeped in the highest sense of integrity, together with God on our side, we must and will present our environment. May God bless us.”

Civil Society Organisations shocked

Environmental NGOs and other Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) have expressed shock about the apparent defeat in the fight against galamsey.

Environmental NGO, A Rocha Ghana wrote this on its twitter page “This is worrying! It's been reported that illegal mining activities have resumed on the Ankobra river. The galamsey operators are back on site with vengeance, destroying all the efforts to combat illegal mining in that area”.

Ecocare Ghana also tweeted this “The current state of the Ankobrah River is very disheartening. Has the @mlnrgovgh @LJinapor given up on the fight against galamsey?”.

Government assures again

Speaking to journalists on the current situation at the River Ankobra, Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Mireku Duker said, government is still committed to end the menace of illegal mining.

He said, members of the Operation Halt team have been moved to the area and have since made some arrest.

“Mining irresponsibly on our river bodies is uncalled for and those doing that I am sounding a word of caution to them, that please move out of our river bodies, if you are caught you won’t be spared, the law will deal with you irrespective of your colourisation”, he warned.