Two hundred and ninety-four people have been arrested so far for their involvement in illegal mining activities in three regions of the country since the Operation Vanguard task force was deployed on July 31, this year.
Out of the number, 194 have been charged and arraigned before the courts.
The suspects were arrested by the Operation Vanguard Joint Task Force in areas around Tarkwa, Obuasi and Osino in the Western, Ashanti and Eastern regions, respectively, between July 31 and September 4, 2017.
The 400-member task force, within the period, also seized 23 excavators, 563 chanfans (floating mining machines), 108 water pumps, 11 vehicles, 11 generators, 13 motorbikes, 508 other mining items and 311 personal effects.
The National Commander of the Operation Vanguard Joint Task Force, Col William Agyepong, made the disclosure when the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, and the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, visited military and police personnel with the task force in Tarkwa, Obuasi and Osino.
They were accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff and some police and military officers.
Need for hauling vehicles
Briefing the ministers on the activities of the task force, Col Agyepong said a month into its operations, it had achieved remarkable successes, with the support of the local people, municipal chief executives and security personnel in the localities.
“All the intelligence we had had been made possible through the immense cooperation of the local people,” he said.
He said the presence of the task force in the three regions had led to the voluntary withdrawal of many excavator activities from various mining communities.
Col Agyepong, however, called on the Attorney-General’s Department to expedite processes to put those arrested for mining illegally before court to serve as a deterrent to others.
He said most of the mining equipment confiscated had been hauled to various police stations and asked for the task force to be provided with low-bed trucks to enhance its work.
The commander explained that that had become necessary because the mining areas were not ordinarily accessible and had water bodies which posed a challenge.
He said in some instances, illegal miners who were accosted were able to get away using canoes to out-smart members of the task force.
Accordingly, he called for the inclusion of the Marine Police and the Navy in the task force to support the team.
Col Agyapong complained that some media published twisted reports from the mining sites, saying that was becoming a major disincentive affecting the morale of the members of the task force who were being very professional in the discharge of their duties.
For his part, Mr Nitiwul commended the task force for achieving quick results within a short time.
He assured the members of the government’s preparedness to give them the needed support in order to sustain the fight against illegal mining.