They expressed fear that the possible withdrawal of the military and other security members of the Operation Vanguard task force from communities plagued with illegal mining could have dire security implications for the country.The security officers, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated this during discussions at the STARR Ghana/Media Coalition Against Galamsey end-of-project evaluation workshop in Accra yesterday.
The event was used to highlight the successes and challenges of the project, which went on from March 2017 to February 2019.
It brought together stakeholders in the fight against illegal mining to assess the project, which was used to organise country-wide town hall meetings to sensitise communities to the destructive effects of galamsey on the environment and the need for them to protect their communities.
It also allowed researchers from the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to present a report on the state of water bodies affected by galamsey in mining communities.
The senior military officers said the absence of security in mining communities could provide the opportunity for some foreigners who might be suspected terrorists fleeing conflict-prone countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali to seek a safe haven in those communities in Ghana.
They indicated that the main aim of suspected terrorists was to raise money that would be repatriated to finance terrorism back home.
Role of military critical
Buttressing their call for security presence to be maintained in mining communities, the military officers cited instances in the past when rebels from Rwandan invaded Congo’s mining communities to engage in illegal mining and raise funds that were repatriated back home to finance terrorism in Rwanda.
They indicated that currently, anti-terrorism operations were being conducted at Ghana’s north-western and north-eastern borders with Burkina Faso to prevent a spill-over of terrorism activities into the country.
In their view, while efforts were being made to insulate Ghana’s borders, many foreigners had come into the country to engage in illegal mining to raise funds from mining activities to finance terrorism in their home countries.
“With such happenings, we think we are far from winning the war on illegal mining. So we should sustain the tempo, if we are not increasing the tempo.
“We should take a critical look at the military involvement in the fight against illegal mining because it is not possible to withdraw the military from active areas where illegal mining is being carried out,” one of the military officers said.
Reacting to the use of specialised drones to survey the activities of illegal miners in mining communities eight hours every day, the officers suggested the need for the use of permanent satellites, just like those being used to monitor the coastlines of the country.
While expressing worry over the extremely low conviction rate of persons arrested for their involvement in galamsey, they said low convictions were demoralising the security personnel.
“If we cannot enforce the law by virtue of going to court and sustaining the conviction of these people who have been in illegal mining, then we are losing the fight,” another officer said.