Illegal miners destroy 40 hectares of Kweikaru forest reserve
Six illegal miners, including a nursing mother, were on Monday arrested in the Kweikaru Forest Reserve in the Birim North District by a combined team of police, military and forestry guards.
Those arrested include, Kwame Adu, 28, from Dorman Ahenkro, Stephen Kweku, 32, from Afoako, near Obuasi, Kwame Isaac, 38, from Achiase and Prince Amakyi, 24, also from Afoako.
The rest are Nana Kweku, 30 and Kende Setuyani, 28, a single parent of two who claimed to have left her six month old baby with a caretaker to enable her to participate in the illegal mining.
Nana Kweku, who was arrested in a previous exercise to flush out the illegal miners from the forest reserve, and was granted bail by the court on the morning that he was re-arrested, explained that he went to the place to collect his belongings but not to mine and was set free.
Earlier, the team destroyed 45 hectares of illegal farms that had been established in the Kajease Forest Reserve by some residents of Oboarbetwawo village, near Tweapease in the Kwaebibirim District.
Briefing the media after the exercise, the Eastern Regional Manager of the Forestry Commission, Mr Attah Owusu, called for concerted efforts of stakeholders to fight and protect the forest reserves from destruction by illegal farmers, miners and chainsaw operators.
He noted that very often, penalties imposed on culprits were not stiff enough to deter others from committing the same offence.
“More often the efforts of stakeholders with serious threats on the lives of the forest guards are wasted because when arrests are made the courts do not impose heavy punishment on offenders,” he complained.
Mr Owusu, therefore, appealed to the judiciary, the media, traditional authorities and other stakeholders to support the Forestry Commission to protect the forest reserves in the country for posterity.
He appealed to the judiciary to exercise their discretionary powers in the confiscation of vehicles and other equipment used in illegal mining and logging in the forest reserves.
Mr Owusu also called for the review of the old laws, which are not deterrent enough to help protect the forest reserves.
The Kade District Forestry Officer, Mr Ahmed Bempah Nsiah, said an exercise organized by the team of forestry guards and the security agencies in the area led to the arrest of 10 illegal miners in the Kweikaru reserve and one illegal farmer in the Kajease reserve and they were handed over to the police for prosecution.
He appealed for vehicles, motor cycles and bicycles to enable the forest guards to intensify their patrols of the 13 forest reserves in the area.
Mr Nsiah said those areas, destroyed by the illegal farmers and the miners in the two reserves would be forested again to help save the forests.