The Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, has issued a warning to illegal miners working at night, saying that they do so at their own risk.
At a press briefing in Accra on Wednesday morning, Mr. Nitiwul noted that the military has been equipped to deal with such recalcitrant miners.
“We know that they do that from 9 pm to 4 am. That’s how brave they are. We know and we know the towns they are doing it in so we will come after you. Don’t try it,” Mr. Nitiwul warned.
“So if you go out there to mine, I cannot guarantee your safety when the soldiers are going to apprehend you. So I will advise you to not go out. It is not worth it.”
Mr. Nitiwul also reiterated and defended the decision of the military to burn the mining equipment of licensed small scale miners.
He indicated that licensed mining companies operating near water bodies will be treated like illegal miners.
“What they did not know is that we are not touching the licenses. It is the illegalities we are touching. Our target was protecting water bodies and their tributaries, not your licence.”
“You can have a license but if you were destroying the water bodies, the soldiers were supposed to make sure that they take out the equipment that you were using. So soldiers were not out to inspect licenses,” the minister explained.
He cited a company called Kibi Goldfields which had authentic documentation but was operating unlawfully.
“You have diverted the water and are polluting the water bodies so they burned their equipment,” Mr. Nitiwul said.
The minister’s comments follow complaints made by Xtra Gold Mining Limited about the burning of their excavators by the military. They claim that destroying their equipment falls outside the mandate of the Operation Halt task force.
Chief Executive Officer of the company, Kate Gyamfuah, who currently serves as the National Women’s Organiser for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), said she was considering legal redress.
Mr. Nitiwul stressed that the the NPP executive’s company was not the only one that had been affected by the actions of the task force.
“Maybe because they [other mining companies] don’t have a political voice, they were not making noise. But their equipment was destroyed as well,” he said.