A Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benito Owusu -Bio, has underscored the need for the country’s courts to strictly apply the maximum sentence on illegal foreign miners convicted for illegal mining.
He noted that unless the country’s mining laws were fully applied, the Chinese and other foreigners would continue to mine illegally in the country.
He cited the instance where some Chinese who were convicted for illegal mining were fined a paltry GH¢10,000, instead of 300,000 penalty units, equivalent to GH¢3,600,000 as required by the law.
Mr Owusu-Bio expressed those concerns when some members of Volunteers Against Environmental Degradation, an NGO devoted to fighting illegal mining, paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu and his deputy in Kumasi on Sunday.
Mr Owusu-Bio said the Ministry would construct court buildings in mining communities such as Tarkwa, Prestea, Dunkwa and Obuasi, to support the Judiciary, to prosecute mining-related cases.
Commenting on the impact the ban on illegal mining has had on the environment, Mr Owusu-Bio, said the activities of illegal mining had reduced tremendously following the arrest and seizure of mining equipment and machinery by the Operation Vanguard.
He said within a period of a year, over a 1000 arrests had been affected, while about 300 equipment and machinery had been confiscated.
The Deputy Minister assured members of the Volunteers Against Environmental Degradation that when the Ministry begins recruiting mining inspectors and monitors, they would be considered in view of their dedication and commitments to fighting the menace.
Mr Owusu-Bio said the Ministry remained resolute in ending the menace of gaalamsey and assured that when the government finally lifted the moratorium on small- scale mining, it would continue monitoring and arresting perpetrators until the practice was completely eliminated.
He said government was putting the necessary structures in place to implement the alternative livelihoods programme and asked those affected by the ban to exercise patience.