The Forestry Commission with support from their taskforce and the military have arrested five galamsey operators in the Bosomtwe Range Forest Reserve in the Bekwai Forest District of the Ashanti Region.
The suspects were arraigned before Bekwai Circuit Court but a couple of them have been granted bail at the moment.
Despite the ban on illegal mining in the country on forest reserves and on water bodies, some still indulge in the act.
Sources gathered by our news team in Kumasi after storming most of the mining communities within the Bekwai Forest District established that there are illegal mining activities that have caused total destruction to the environment and also posing threat to the forest reserve.
The invasion of the Reserve by galamsey operators has left the Forestry Commission worried.
The visit was to ascertain reports that illegal mining was in full force in that forest reserve and also to know the extent of destruction caused by the illegal miners.
When the team got to the reserve, it saw that several hectares of the forest cover had been destroyed by the galamsey operators who had abandoned their equipment and ran for cover.
They have created four illegal mining sites about the size of a sports stadium.
Excavators, changfan machines, fuel storage tanks and other equipment were seen at the site and some were burnt.
They had fell hundreds of economic trees and dug deep pits in their illegal search for gold.
River bodies in the reserve are also being polluted by the illegal miners.
The Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu Bioh, who was outraged at the extent of the devastation caused by the operations, led in the burning of some of their machines.
In an interview with the media on the issue in the reserve, Mr. Owusu Bioh, pointed out that, galamsey operators have recently been drawn to the reserve which is a source of worry to them.
He called on the judiciary to expedite action on those arrested and prosecute them.
“Some of them have been arrested and being processed to court in Bekwai. A couple of them have been granted bail. In fact, we are praying with the court to expedite action on the case, so they can be prosecuted and jail them,” he said.
According to him, this is the third time he has visited the Bosomtwe Range Forest Reserve, and described the place as an endemic galamsey area.
“…But then what we keeping saying is that the forest reserves and water bodies are no-go areas. They are red zones. So anyone found doing this we will follow it to the latter to get them secured,” he pointed out.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey, said they are now collecting data on the forest reserves destroyed by the illegal miners.
He described the galamsey activities in the forest reserves as very devastating to the environment.
“The last decade, our focus was on illegal chainsaw operators and bush fire prevention and others. But, at the moment, we have to deal with galamsey menace. It’s becoming dangerous and bigger due to the impact,” he cried.