The deployment of the joint police and military task force came as a significant boost to government’s fight against illegal mining in July 2017, following renewed concerns of the devastating effects of the illicit mining on the country’s natural resources.
Government’s anti-illegal mining task force, Operation Vanguard, has said that its work in ending illegal mining is constraining by the lack of equipment among other challenges.
Prime among these problems is the absence of equipment for nighttime operations.
The task force has chalked up well over 400 arrests.
But since Operation Vanguard began its operations, there has been a noticeable shift in the operations of illegal miners from daytime to nighttime.
The Commander of the task force, Colonel Michael Amoah Ayisi, explained to Citi News that “now we know illegal miners have shifted their operations into dark hours and difficult terrain and all those things. We don’t have night vision devices, so we are going with our natural eyes. We can’t go with light because they will see you and then you might not make any meaningful [headway].”
He added that this left personnel at the mercy of traps set by the illegal miners and other dangers.
“Aside from that, there are pits and trenches; some dug purposely to trap us. Others too are leftovers that have not been filled. It is quite a challenging situation,” Colonel Amoah said.
The limitations of the task force also stretch to other logistics like transportation.
“We are also limited in so many ways, regarding transportation. We have the men ready to go in four or five patrols a day within one region, but our capacity can allow us only one patrol. Look at the size of the Ashanti Region or Eastern [Region] or Western [Region]. For most of the endemic areas, it’s almost a the who region so for the ordinary person, you would think we are not doing much because you want to see a drastic change immediately but it takes time,” the Operation Vanguard commander lamented.
The previous Commander of Operation Vanguard, Colonel William Agyapong, prior to his exit had raised concerns with the prosecution of illegal miners arrested by the anti-galamsey task force.
According to him, the sentences given by the judiciary to the suspects were not deterrent enough and a major disincentive to the fight against illegal mining in the country.
“Government has done a lot, but we will need more. The kind of sentences and fines that come out of the arrest are not helpful. We know that the onus is on the prosecution to prove somebody guilty, but if you know what we go through and after everything the sentencing and the fines are not so deterrent… If you find somebody who is involved in small-scale illegal mining and you fine him GH¢1,000 or GH¢2,000, I think that it will not be deterrent enough. He will not see why he should not go back to the land. These are worrying issues that I hope that in due course, they are tackled by the appropriate authority,” he said.