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Judicial system slowing down galamsey fight–Frimpong-Boateng, contradicts President

Source The Ghana Report/Gloria KAFUI Ahiable

Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng says the judicial system is not helping in the fight against galamsey.

The sector minister argues the judicial system makes it easy for some foreign nationals to escape the full rigours of the law.

His frustrations follow a Joy News report suggests that illegal mining activities have bounced back in the Oda River and a forest reserve in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region.

Speaking at a public forum in Accra, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng lamented bitterly of how bad the situation has become even after the ban.

“The court system is very frustrating for us. Foreign nationals go to court and are bailed. And I can imagine that some of them may even go to do what they do best in Ghana and then when is time they go to court.

“It’s very frustrating and sometimes even I [referring to his authority as a sector minister] cannot influence the court system, even the Attorney General finds it difficult because of the way the system is,” he said.

But it appears the statement contradicts the purpose of the review and amendment of the Mining Act which President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo assented to in August last year.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in August 2019 assented to the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act.

At a meeting with the Council of State in August last year, the President said: “We felt that we have to take away some of the discretion of the judges.”

“It’s unfortunate that it should be so because all of us should be able to trust them, to do their bit in stamping out crime and its consequences in our society. But that doesn’t turn out to be the case. So, this is another important step that we’ve taken in this fight against illegal mining,” the Daily Graphic quoted the President as saying.

The need to take away the judges discretion was because of claims that the judges were granting bails unnecessarily to illegal mining suspects.

The new Act amends the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), and increased the penalties for a person who buys or sells minerals without a licence or without valid authority.

In the new anti-galamsey law, persons found guilty of engaging in illegal mining will get a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 25 years jail sentence.

The decision to peg a prison term for offenders, according to the President is to strengthen the prosecution process.

Foreigners arrested in Ghana’s illegal mining areas include citizens of  Nigeria, China, Benin, and Ghana.

Adding his voice to curbing the menace in a Joynews interview, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh revealed that the government in the coming weeks will deploy a number of military personnel to the mining site in Amansie West District.

He also hinted at a change in strategy to fight the re-emerged galamsey which he provided no details.

Following the widespread devastation of water resources and forest reserves as a result of the activities of illegal mining, the government, in March 2017 placed a ban on small scale mining for a period of six months.

Background

“Offences and Penalties” of the ACT

99. (1) A person who buys or sells minerals without
(a). a license in accordance with section 6, 82, 97 or 104; or
(b). a valid authority granted under this Act or any other enactment, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand penalty units and not more than fifteen thousand penalty units, and to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years.

(2) A person who
(a). without a licence granted by the Minister, undertakes a mining operation
(b). contrary to a provision of this Act,
(c). acts or instigates, commands, counsels, procures, solicits, or in any manner
(d). purposely aids, facilitates, or encourages, or promotes any acts in contravention of a provision of this Act in respect of which a penalty has not specified, or
(e). contracts a foreigner to provide mining support services commits an offence and
(f). is liable to summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand penalty units and not more than fifteen thousand penalty units, and to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years.

(3) A non-Ghanaian who undertakes a mining operation or facilitates the participation of any person in mining contrary to a provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable on a conviction to
(a) a fine of not less than one hundred thousand penalty units and not more than three hundred and fifty thousand penalty units, and
(b) a term of imprisonment of not less than twenty years and not more than twenty-five years; or
(c) both the fine and the term of imprisonment.

(4) Where a non-Ghanaian who is liable on summary conviction under subsection (3) is a person liable to deportation under section 35 of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573), that foreigner shall, where sentenced to a term of imprisonment, serve the full sentence before deportation in accordance with subsection (3) of section 37 of Act 573.

(5) A Ghanaian who

(a) permits a non- Ghanaian to undertake or to participate, or

(b) facilitates the participation of a non-Ghanaian, in mining contrary to this Act commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than thirty thousand penalty units and not more than one hundred thousand penalty units and to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years.

(6) A person who fabricates manufactures or uses a floating platform or any other equipment for mining, dredging or any other mode of mining for the purpose of obtaining minerals in or along the banks of a natural water body including a river, a stream, a watercourse, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf of the Republic of Ghana commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than fifty thousand penalty units and not more than one hundred thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years or both the fine and the term of imprisonment.

(7) A person who provides of is involved in the provision of an excavator or any other equipment for mining operations contrary to a provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than fifty thousand penalty units and not more than one hundred thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years or both the fine and the term of imprisonment.

(8) Where a person is arrested for an offence under subsection (3), (5), (6) or (7), any equipment used in or associated with the commission of the offence and any product derived from the commission of the offence shall, without regard to the ownership of the equipment or the product, be seized and kept in the custody of the police.

(9) A court that convicts a person for any offence under subsection (2), (3), (5), (6) or (7) shall, in addition to the penalty that the court shall impose, order the forfeiture of any equipment or product seized under subsection (8) to the State.

(10) The Minister shall, within sixty days after the confiscation of the equipment or product, allocate the equipment or product to the appropriate State institution and publish in the Gazette the name of the State institution to which the equipment or product is allocated.

(11) In this section, “court” includes the Circuit Court.”

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