At least three forest staff lost their lives in a tragic encounter with suspected illegal miners in 2023 alone, according to data from the Forestry Commission.

A Deputy Commissioner at the Forestry Commission Sulemana Nelson disclosed this at a meeting between liaison officers at various institutions and the National House of Chiefs , to find a lasting solution to the menace of illegal mining which has left large tracts of Ghana’s forests and waterbodies destroyed.

“The uniform of the forestry officer was enough to scare away people who encroach into our forest reserves for various reasons but today the case is different. People who encroach on our forest reserves now are usually armed, and this is exposing our staff and workers to many dangers. Last year three of our staff were gunned down and lost their lives miserably. There are a number of staff who have been maimed in the line of duty”, he revealed.

Recognising the gravity of the situation, Nelson emphasised the need for collaboration with institutions such as the National House of Chiefs. He pledged the Forestry Commission’s unwavering commitment to supporting the collective effort to stem the tide of illegal mining and safeguard the nation’s invaluable natural resources.

“We think that an important aspect of working to resolve this problem has to do with collaborating with all institutions such as this House… And so we will do our possible best to support the entire course,” he added, as a united front emerged in the quest to protect Ghana’s forests from the encroaching shadows of illegal mining.

For his part president of the National House of Chiefs, Ogyeahohor Yaw Gyebi II reiterated his call for the government to take far-reaching measures to comprehensively clamp down on the menace of illegal mining.

He also stressed the need for all stakeholders to be involved in the fight against illegal mining, devoid of politics.

“This meeting is long overdue, but it is better now than later because I strongly believe that if Nananom is included and empowered in the fight against galamsey, we can be assured of more effective results.”

“Illegal mining has resulted in environmental degradation, including deforestation, pollution of water bodies and rivers, and soil erosion. Illegal miners also use toxic chemicals and heavy metals including cyanide, mercury, sulphuric acid, and lead, which have negative effects on individuals and must therefore be stopped.”

Redeploy military  

Early this year the Commission called for the immediate redeployment of the military to help halt illegal mining and other destructive activities in forest reserves across the country.

The commission said the withdrawal of the military from the fight against galamsey in forest reserves since 2022 had emboldened illegal miners to wreak havoc on forest reserves with impunity.

The Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division (FSD) of the commission, Hugh Brown, who made the call, said although the internal forest guards had done their best to protect the forest reserves from destruction by illegal miners and loggers, they were constrained by the superior weapons the perpetrators of the environmental crimes wielded.

“What we are doing is fighting organised crime against our environment and our very existence. The statutory books make it a crime to mine in forest reserves, and we do not have the support of the military who have been trained by the country to defend us by land, sea and the air; and this is serious,” he told the Daily Graphic in an interview.

Brown added that the situation was dire because the illegal miners operated with sophisticated weapons, including AK 47 while forest guards used pump action guns.

“Anytime we send our men out, we cannot catch a nap until they are back because they are not prepared for the kind of combat that is required,” he said.

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