MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, says the deployment of a joint military and police taskforce to illegal mining areas amounts to the use of excessive force at the expense of tackling the problem of illegal mining at the root.
The former Environment Minister said the menace of illegal mining has come about because state agencies that are responsible for licensing people to mine legally enter into arrangements with other people to encumber mining concessions.
“So the young people that we are encouraging to engage in legal mining when they go for permits, they are told that this place someone has already obtained the concession and they [illegal miners] living in the community and they never see a mining company come to mine in the area.
“But anytime they go for a permit, they are told the place is encumbered. And after several years, they just start mining,” he explained how illegal mining has sprung up across the country.
He was speaking on Joy FM/MultiTV news analysis programme, Newsfile, on Saturday.
The government commissioned the Operation Vanguard two weeks ago to scale up the fight against relentless and sometimes armed illegal miners dotted around mineral-rich sites in the Ashanti, Eastern, and Western regions.
The current administration has vowed to stamp out the illegal mining activities that have destroyed water bodies and entire ecosystems.
At least five illegal miners have died in clashes with the task force recently,
Seized mining equipment have been set ablaze, prompting concerns that the deployment of the joint security forces could be heavy handedness in dealing with the issue.
Speaking on the matter on Newsfile, Mahama Ayariga said government’s decision to deploy the 400-man strong military and police task force is a wrong approach to dealing with the problem of illegal miners.
“The Military [deployment] is absolutely unnecessary,” he says.
“We don’t need whole armed forces there. We just need to figure out the systems and work on the systems,” he suggests.
According to him, the size of earth moving machines that find their way to and operate at mining sites would only escape authorities unless there is collusion with state agencies, indicating the need to tackle the problem at these sources.
“Recently I visited mining site, and I saw earthmoving equipment standing there. So I asked myself ‘how did this equipment pass to get this site’? And the police in this town are telling me they could not have stopped this heavy equipment to getting to the mining site? ” he quizzed.
Mr Ayariga was reminded that some of the illegal miners are armed and pose a threat to the security of state agencies that have tried in the past to stop them.
Following news of the deployment, some of the illegal miners threatened to deal with any task force, causing the Public Relations Officer of Operation Vanguard, Major Gariba Pabi, to caution that the task force will not relent in shooting down any resistance that threatens the life of the personnel.
Responding to this, Mr. Ayariga said he agrees that the extent of the current situation warrants the use of some force to wipe out the miners.
“The point I am making is that, look at the problem, try to analyse it and try to find solutions that address it.
“How long are you going to station soldiers at every location that there is illegal mining activity. Do you know the overall cost to the state?” he demands.