Akufo-Addo’s support for excavator burning disappointing – Small Scale Miners

The President of the Small Scale Miners Association of Ghana, Michael Peprah, has criticised President Akufo-Addo for endorsing the burning of excavators seized from illegal miners.

“We shouldn’t embolden the military to go about burning excavators. That’s not how the rule of law works in a country…we were not expecting our president to speak like this,” he reacted.

Mr Peprah said he was shocked by the comments of President Akufo-Addo for directing aggrieved persons whose properties have been destroyed to seek redress in court.

He said members of the association did not expect that from President Akufo-Addo because of promises and assurances to continue mining.

“When we had a stakeholder meeting with them(government), they didn’t mention anything about the burning of excavators. I don’t think the President is a lawyer because he wouldn’t have spoken the way he did if he were. And how dare we make the military appear as judges?”

What did President Akufo-Addo say?

At a sod-cutting ceremony to commence a Law Village Project in Accra Wednesday, May 26, President Akufo-Addo told individuals against the methods deployed to clamp down the activities of illegal miners to go to court.

“I know there are sve that the ongoing exercise of ridding our water bodies and forest zones of harmful equipment and machinery is unlawful and, in some cases, harsh.

I strongly disagree, auntil would advise those who take a contrary view to go to court to vindicate their position if they so wish. That is what the rule of law is all about,” President Akufo-Addo said.

This has irked the small miners who had earlier called for a halt in the destruction of their equipment.

The government has deployed 400 soldiers to confiscate and burn equipment, including excavators and changfang machines detected at a 100-meter radius of water bodies where illegal mining (galamsey) activities are prohibited.

More than 500 pieces of equipment have been destroyed as part of Operation Halt to end illegal mining.

Similar military deployment in the past

Shortly after the first Akufo-Addo administration commenced in 2017, a joint military and police task force known as Operation Vanguard was unleashed to combat illegal mining.

However, the desired results were not achieved despite some successes achieved by the joint team.

After nearly three years of working together, the government’s military component was dissolved by the government in March 2020.

It was believed that the withdrawal of the military from the joint task force was to allow restrategizing by the government in the fight against illegal mining.

The task was left in the hands of the police.

Despite their operations, there are still activities of illegal miners dotted across the country.

What necessitated the galamsey fight

Over the years, there has been growing public frustration over efforts to reclaim damaged environments.

Polluted water bodies like River Pra are still looking brownish with residues of cyanide.

Some areas of the country initially covered by thick vegetation have become bare.

The NPP government launched Operation Vanguard in 2017 to reclaim mining zones from environmental degradation caused by illegal mining.

President Nana Akufo-Addo made the fight against illegal mining one of the key objectives of his government.

“I have said it in the Cabinet, and perhaps this is the first time I am making this public, that I am prepared to put my Presidency on the line on this matter,” he said in 2017.

The government set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM).

A nationwide ban on small-scale mining and illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, followed.

After four years,  the government is under pressure to highlight the positives following several scandals.

There is an increasing perception that politicians are neck-deep in illegal mining and are frustrating the fight.

Even the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining has not been free from scandals.

Its secretary, Charles Bissue, resigned after an undercover investigation implicated him.

The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service concluded in their report that Mr Bissue did not circumvent laid down processes.

This was after President Akufo-Addo called for a probe into the matter following a documentary by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

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