The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has observed that illegal small-scale miners have returned to sites that were recently cleared by the Operation Halt II team.

A statement signed by GAF’s Public Relations Director, Col. Eric Aggrey Quarshie 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 ago, Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul said the anti-galamsey team will direct its focus on nocturnal miners.

At a press briefing in Accra on Wednesday, 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.”

Mr Nitiwul also said the soldiers involved in fighting illegal small-scale mining are targeting all illegal mining activities and equipment that pose a threat to Ghana’s water bodies irrespective of whether they belong to licensed or unlicensed miners.

In his Wednesday, 19 May 2021 media briefing about the ongoing anti-galamsey operation, Mr Nitiwul said the “big companies in the Eastern Region are those who were doing the wrong thing”.

“And, so, they said: ‘We have a licence; yes, we have a mining lease, so, for us they will not touch us’, but what they did not know is that we are not touching the licences, it’s the illegality we are touching; our target was the illegality, our target was protecting water bodies and their tributaries not your licence”.

“Yes, you can have a licence but if you are destroying the water bodies, the soldiers were supposed to make sure that they take out the equipment you are using, so, the soldiers were not out to inspect licences”, he stressed.

At the same briefing, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Samuel Abu Jinapor said “since I became a minister, I’ve not granted any single mining licence or lease; I haven’t done so and I’m not aware that a mining licence or lease has been granted or extended”.

Mr Jinapor made the revelation concerning the renewed fight against illegal small-scale mining (galamsey), which resulted in the recent burning of some 16 excavators and a bulldozer belonging to Xtra-Gold Mining Limited in the Eastern Region.

According to Mr Jinapor, “the laws will be enforced and enforced without fear or favour and without any discrimination”.

In a recent statement issued concerning the destruction of its equipment, Xtra-Gold Mining Limited, whose General Manager is Ms Kate Gyamfua, the Women’s Organiser of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), said it is “a legally registered large-scale leaseholder of five concessions and our company has all the necessary government permits to conduct mining operations”.

“We have been operating since 2006, and everyone, including the military, knows we are a legal mining company”, the company said.

On its website, the Canadian-based company said it is a licensed gold exploration company focused on defining a potentially significant resource on its Kibi Gold Discovery located in Ghana.

The Kibi Gold Belt, which exhibits many similar geological features to Ghana's main gold belt (the Ashanti Belt with over 150 million oz’s of gold discovered), has been the subject of very limited modern exploration activity targeting lode gold deposits as virtually all past gold mining activity and exploration efforts focused on the extensive alluvial gold occurrences in many river valleys.

Xtra-Gold has a substantial land position in the Kibi Gold Belt.

In its statement, Xtra-Gold, which operates in the Atiwa West District of the Eastern Region, said it pays “big money” in terms of taxes and royalties to the government of Ghana and, thus, was disappointed with the anti-galamsey task force’s action, which, it noted, was a violation of the law.

“These unlawful actions are a clear violation of the rule of law,” the company said.

“Our company pays big money royalties, taxes, stool land fees”.

“We are socially responsible, and employ hundreds of local workers”, it noted.

“At the same time that we are paying all these huge taxes, the military is burning millions of dollars of our mining equipment,” the company bemoaned.

On Sunday, 16 May 2021, the anti-galamsey taskforce launched an onslaught at mining sites at Larbikrom, Dompem and Pamen, all in the Atiwa District of the Eastern Region to rid the area of illegal miners.

Speaking further on the burning of excavators, Mr Nitiwul said: “Members of the Ghana Armed Forces or even government officials don’t take pleasure or we don’t enjoy seeing equipment being destroyed but when you visit the Offin river and its enclave and you notice that a woman who is 5 metres or 20 metres from the river or a man whose house is 20 metres from the river, needs to buy water before he can wash his things, then you’ll understand the difficulties that we are facing”.

“There’s a river by him but even to get water to wash his things, he has to buy water. As for drinking, he’s lost the ability to drink from the river that our forefathers have enjoyed for thousands of years or year to three or even ten years ago”.

He said members of the team “don’t know anybody”.

“When they meet an excavator, they destroy it, as long it’s within their red zone. They don’t ask: ‘whose is this excavator?’”

For Ghanaians to appreciate the extent of destruction caused to the water bodies, Mr Nitiwul urged: “Let’s take a stroll along the Birim river and you’ll see the danger and devastation that is being done to the people in this area”.