A joint military and police team has raided Agya Okyerekrom, near Nkasiem in the Asutifi District of the Brong Ahafo Region, and arrested 14 galamsey operators alleged to be terrorising residents of the area.
The area is said to be part of the concession of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited, operators of the Ahafo Mine.
The operation, which was led by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and Member of Parliament (MP) for Asutifi South, Alhaji Collins Dauda, was also to secure the land, prevent any violent clashes in the area and stop further destruction of the environment.
Those arrested are Mutala Mohammed, 26, the leader of the group; Mike Manu, 39; Mohammed Nurudeen, 28; Abdulai Jamal, 29; Yaw Frank, 30; Fifii Agyaku, 32; Abubakari Sadick, 30, and Sulemana Hamid, 35.
The rest are Tahiru Mohammed, 35; Joseph Coffie, 15; Yaw Ali, 24; Ibrahim Ahmed, 23, and Dickson Karikari, 25.
A member of the group, Joseph Akrowah, who was present during the swoop, escaped arrest and is being sought for by the police.
The suspects have been transferred to the Brong Ahafo Regional Police Headquarters for further investigations before being put before court.
According to Mutala, he and his group had been in the galamsey business for a very long time and were based in Konongo in the Ashanti Region but they were hired by some chiefs of Nkasiem to supervise mining activities in the area.
Some residents of the town hailed the minister and the military/police team for the operation which led to the arrest of the 14 people.
The residents alleged that apart from preventing them from taking part in the galamsey operation, the suspects also visited mayhem on them at the least provocation, resulting in the maiming of some people in the area who dared them, adding that the situation was getting volatile until the timely intervention by the MP.
Madam Akua Korankye, the owner of the land on which the illegal mining was taking place, alleged that she and her children, as well as some residents of the area, started the galamsey until the chiefs brought in the group from Konongo to protect their (chiefs’) interest.
She alleged that ever since the group came to the settlement, the indigenes had never known peace, as the suspects unleashed terror and mayhem on them at the least provocation, noting that any time the suspects got gold it was divided into three with the chiefs taking one, one for the group and the remainder for the residents.
Alhaji Dauda, later in a briefing, cautioned the chiefs to desist from involving themselves in illegal mining activities in the area, since that fell outside their domain, noting that they would not be spared if the long arm of the law caught up with them.
He ordered the immediate sealing off of the area to halt illegal mining activities and added that the government had already entered into an agreement with Newmont which now had the land as its concession.
Alhaji Dauda stated that now that the land had been secured, the next move by his ministry and the Brong Ahafo Regional Security Council (REGSEC) was to send bulldozers to the area to level the ground and fill all the trenches dug in the area by the illegal miners.
He stated that the government was in the process of streamlining the activities of small-scale miners in the country, adding that until that was done could not be undertaker illegal mining in the country.