Three illegal miners have been sentenced to a total of 45 years and also fined GH¢720,000 for undertaking small-scale mining operations without license.
The three convicts, Joseph Donkor, 40, Joseph Paul, 27, and Charles Ewusi, 27, were each jailed 15years on two counts of mining without license and conspiracy to commit crime.
In addition, they were fined ¢240,000.00 each.
The convicts were caught in the act of illegally prospecting for gold in a forest reserve on February 16 during an operation by a team from the Regional Forestry Commission.
Illegal miners in court
The determination of the case is the first sentence of many illegal mining cases pending before the courts in the Western Region, where those arrested are currently helping the police in their investigation.
These follow the declaration of forest reserves and water bodies as prohibited areas or red-lines that must not be crossed.
The court said their failure to pay the fine would result in each of them serving additional two-weeks to serve as a deterrent to other like-minded people engaged in illegal mining activities.
Punishment for illegal mining
In passing the judgment at the Circuit Court B, the presiding judge, Mrs Abigail Animah Asare, reminded other like-minded persons that the mining act had been reviewed and the punishments were very punitive.
She said the three were handed the least punishment under the act owing to the fact they were first time offenders and that it was rather unfortunate that the convicts had to suffer it when the real financiers were out there.
In the facts put before the court, the Police Prosecutor, Sgt. Robert Yawson, told the court that on February 16, 2021, the Takoradi District Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission reported illegal mining activities in the reserve.
The suspects, he said, were a farmer and two unemployed, all residents at Alabankata, near Cape Three Points, in the Ahanta West District in the Western Region.
Due to the level of degradation, the commission’s forest guard and the national rapid response team deployed intercepted the illegal miners in the reserve busily prospecting for gold.
Upon seeing the task force the group of miners took to their heels but the three were arrested and photographed in the act for evidential purpose.
They were subsequently handed over to the Regional Police Command for investigation where they admitted to the offence in their respective caution statement to the police.
According to the prosecutor, further investigations revealed that the three were mining without license contrary to Section 99 (2) (a) of the Minerals and Mining Act of 2006 (Act 703) as Amended by the Minerals and Mining Act of 2019 Act 995.
The activities of illegal mining left vast swathes of forest reserves and farms, as well as some rivers in the Western and Eastern regions, destroyed.
The deployment of troops resulted in the arrest of many of the illegal miners with cases currently in court.
Deep in the heart of the two regions, where accessibility to the thick forests is virtually impossible, illegal miners have managed to penetrate with huge machines to cause destruction of unimaginable proportions.
To combat the situation, last May, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, high-ranking officials from the Operation Halt Team, as well as the media, embarked on an aerial tour of the areas devastated by illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, and it was a sorry sight.
The vast areas touched by the miners were nothing but scenes of sprawling land and water bodies that had been polluted by illegal mining, which left the scenes of destruction and degradation visible for miles.
Although mineral wealth constitutes a valuable asset that can propel national growth and spur development in the mining communities, the havoc that the Daily Graphic witnessed from the air showed that the mining communities and the nation had become poorer.
The illegal activities have left chains of uncovered abandoned pits filled with muddy water in many areas, posing grave danger to residents of those areas.