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Illegal miners in Ellembelle destroy environment; Assembly moves in to halt activities

BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu
• A parcel of land destroyed by illegal mining activities in the Ellembelle District

The Ellembelle District Security Council (DISEC) is on a warpath with illegal miners (galamsey) whose activities are causing serious environmental and social problems in the district and threatening lives and property.

Not only is the situation a threat to the environment, but it also exposes the residential communities to harm.

The  District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr Kwesi Bonzo, described the re-emergence of illegal mining activities in the district after the introduction of the community mining programme as unacceptable. he, therefore, triggered immediate action to curb the surge after an emergency District Security Council (DISEC) meeting last Monday.

Danger looms

Last Monday, a team from DISEC went round some communities to assess the situation and it found out from the various areas that large tracts of land, which hitherto had green forests had been levelled at Teleku-Bokazo, Nkroful and Esiama, where the activities of the illegal miners pose a danger to residents.

At some of the sites, the operators were found to be using excavators to flip the earth open while prospecting for gold in areas which are less than 10 metres from residential facilities.

At one of such facilities, it was observed that, the miners were digging behind a bungalow shared by the divisional police commander and the magistrate and they were close to the district assembly’s offices with their destructive activities.

Community mining

The DISEC, he said, had resolved to ensure that these activities did not fester under their watch.

“We, in Ellembelle, will work as a task force to curb these activities of illegal miners and stop the destruction of the nation’s water bodies and forest reserves,” he said.

 No permit

The DISEC task force led by the DCE and the Divisional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Dodzi Hlordze, seized two excavators and arrested a financier of the illegal operations who did not have any permit to operate.

The task force also arrested two operators while others who heard of the taskforce approaching escaped.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic, Mr Bonzoh said government introduced the Community Mining Programme (CMP) in the district and other communities in other regions to halt the colossal environmental degradation across mining areas in the country.

Negative impact

The current invasion by illegal miners in Ellembelle, he said, had been extended to the communities of Esiama and Teleku-Bokazo, which would pose a threat to human settlements, polluting surface and underground water, causing deforestation, poor soil fertility and limited access to land for agriculture purposes.

“The establishment of the CMP was a demonstration that the government was not against mining, and we in Ellembelle were selected for the programme and those interested in the mining activities to practise in safe and sustainable manner,” he said.

What the district was witnessing now, he said, was a threat not only to the environment and future generations but “it is a threat to us the present and if not controlled could lead to a serious challenge ahead.”

Threat

Some of the residents, who indicated that they did not feel safe with the operations of the illegal miners taking place in the residential community, expressed the hope that the DISEC would keep its word and take action.

“Activities of these illegal miners are a real source of worry. We cannot sleep at night, as for fear of being arrested, these miners at least have the opportunity to mine throughout the period.

“They do not respect anybody; they are introducing children and young ones to all vices. That is not just a nuisance to the community, but also a threat to the future of the children,” a resident said.

Others said the operators were known persons in the community who needed to be arrested and wondered why such operations were taking place next to the assembly and even the residents of some prominent people, yet they looked on.

“It is good the DCE is moving in with the police to arrest them, they should destroy their excavators and other stuff,” he said.