The Eastern Regional Police Command has transferred 14 people, reportedly National Security operatives, to the Police Headquarters in Accra for further probe after they were arrested for illegal mining in the Atewa Forest.
The suspects were among 19 persons arrested by some youth last Tuesday at Akyem Akanteng in the West Akyem Municipality in the Eastern Region.
The suspects were initially questioned at the Eastern Regional Police Command before being brought to Accra for further interrogation.
Confirming the incident, the Kade District manager of the Forestry Commission, Kwabena Adu-Bonnah, said though armed, the suspects were overpowered by the angry youth before the arrest was made.
Mr Adu-Bonnah said the suspects, onboard a Toyota Land Cruiser V8, with sophisticated rifles on the dawn of last Tuesday, invaded the reserve in Akyem-Akateng under the guise of clamping down on illegal miners.
They reportedly tried to scare the residents and forest guards who tried to prevent them from getting into the forest.
The unrelenting youth in a bid to restrict the suspects’ movement, reportedly deflated the tires of the five V8 vehicles they used for the operation and called for back up and eventually managed to arrest them.
“At around 8: 30 p.m. on Monday, an informant from Akanteng informed us about the presence of some people in military outfit entering the galamsey area so we mobilised and around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, we went to the community, by then they were coming down so with the help of the community we were able to arrest about 19 and later 11 more,” he stated.
Mr Adu-Bonnah said the latest arrests bring to 65 the number of persons who claim to be members of the state security embarking on illegal mining in the Eastern region.
“In a matter of 10 days, we’ve been able to arrest 65 people who are either in military or police outfits claiming to be national security officers.
“Last week we arrested some, this week, we arrested four, 19, and 11 on some galamsey sites in the region. They have all been handed over to the police for further action,” Mr Adu-Bonnah explained.
The government, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR), has relaunched the fight against illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.
As part of the fight, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, has issued a directive for the suspension of all reconnaissance and prospecting in forest reserves.
It has also directed the Minerals Commission not to, with immediate effect, accept, process and recommend the granting, including renewal and extension, of reconnaissance and prospecting licences in forest reserves.
The directive is part of actions being taken to safeguard and ensure the sustainable management and utilisation of the nation’s natural resources.
Also last week, 200 military personnel were deployed by the government to flush out illegal miners from Ghana’s water bodies and forest reserves.
The exercise, dubbed “Operation Halt,” resulted in the arrest of two Chinese nationals at Attieku, near Twifo Praso, in the Central Region for illegally mining in a forest reserve.