Climate Change & Energy
As new Chinese illegal miners enter Apamprama Forest Reserve, Forest Commission is giving another hope
Source: Ghenvironment.com - September 6, 2023
The Apamprama Forest Reserve, located in the Amansie Central of the Ashanti Region is under siege, as illegal miners, both local and foreign, including Chinese nationals are busily destroying the remaining patches of the forest with impunity.
In its hotline documentary titled ‘Forest Under Siege’, Joy News Journalist, Erastus Asare Donkor revealed the continuous damage to the forest despite assurances by the government to contain the situation.
A visit by ghenvironment.com to the forest in August this year also revealed a damaging forest where illegal miners, especially Chinese miners continue to mine with heavy mining equipment.
Abuakwaa is one of the several communities where the forest is located and Kofi Oppong who is a resident told ghenvironment.com that, just yesterday, he counted about 30 excavators parked in the community ready to enter the forest to mine illegally with the support of armed guards.
Reacting to the Joy News documentary however, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey said in a statement that, with the support of military personnel from the Southern Command, illegal miners were flushed out from these three forest reserves between May and July 2023.
“During this period five excavators and 1 bulldozer equipment were seized, with one excavator burnt in the Apamprama forest reserve. Additionally, an unspecified number of other mining equipment and wooden structures used by the illegal miners were also destroyed in these three forest reserves”, the statement said.
Below is the full reaction by the Forestry Commission.
The attention of the Forestry Commission has been drawn to a Joy News hotline documentary on alleged illegal mining activities in the Apamprama Forest Reserve, which aired yesterday evening, 4th September 2023. We thank the Multimedia Group for shining the light on the destruction of a large portion of this once lush forest reserve and an important watershed, through illegal mining. We believe such documentaries help draw attention to grave national issues that public support is urgently required to address.
It is, however, important to put matters in proper perspective for the sake of the public. The Apamprama Forest Reserve was duly constituted in 1952 and it covers an area of approximately 35km2. Illegal alluvial gold mining has been ongoing for several decades along the banks of the Oda River that flows through the reserve. Since 2013, however, there have been incidents of illegal mining with heavy equipment (excavators) in this.
Forest Reserve, leading to the arrest of three Chinese nationals and one Ghanaian that year. The estimated area affected was reported to be about 3 hectares. Again, on lst February 2016, eight (8) persons including five Chinese were arrested for engaging in illegal mining in the reserve, and two (2) excavators being used by the illegal miners were seized (Graphic Online Feb. 01, 2016; Myjoyonline Feb. 01, 2016).
Thereafter, there has been a series of illegal mining in the reserve with some arrests affected by the country suffering incidences of illegal gold mining, apart from three of these reserves where the FC had challenges in dealing with the situation, the other 31 reserves were fairly under the control of the FC, notwithstanding occasional incursions by illegal miners. The Apamprama Forest Reserve is one of the three forest reserves where the Commission had challenges due to the associated violence exhibited by the armed perpetrators, in addition to the Oda River and Subin Shelterbelt forest reserves.
With the support of military personnel from the Southern Command, illegal miners were flushed out from these three forest reserves between May and July 2023. During this period five excavators and 1 bulldozer equipment were seized, with one excavator burnt in the Apamprama forest reserve. Additionally, an unspecified number of other mining equipment and wooden structures used by the illegal miners were also destroyed in these three forest reserves.
It is important to note that the Forestry Commission has employed a number of strategies and interventions aimed, ultimately, at curbing illegal mining in forest reserves. These include
1. The training of 964 frontline field officers of the Commission by the military to boost law enforcement. Some of these trainees currently form the nucleus of the FC’s Rapid Response Teams (RRT) that support the fight against illegal mining and other forest offences within forest reserves;
2. The procurement of 1000 pump action guns to boost the morale and capacity of frontline staff to protect forest reserves;
3. The seizure and decommissioning of equipment used for illegal mining in forest reserves. Since January this year, three excavators have been seized and over 70 excavators, an unspecified number of generators, water pumping machines and other mining equipment and temporary wooden structures have been burnt within forest reserves mainly in the Bekwai, Bibiani, Enchi, Juaboso and Tarkwa forest districts by the Forest Services Division with the support of the RRTs. Out of the total number of burnt excavators 12 were burnt in the Apamprama Forest Reserve;
4. The arrest and prosecution of illegal miners, both Ghanaians and foreigners. Many of these people have been convicted, while the trials of others are pending in various courts across the country;
5. The intensification of surveillance, intelligence gathering, and monitoring of illegal mining activities in forest reserves to ensure early detection and arrest of perpetrators;
6. The training of Forestry Commission staff to prosecute forest offences. So far, 30 management staff of the Commission have been trained as prosecutors by the Office of the Attorney General;
7. Stakeholder engagements and education on the adverse effects of illegal mining on the environment, to garner public support to fight this menace.
8 Reclamation exercises to reclaim degraded reserves. Currently, under the Forest Investment Programme, the Forestry Commission and other partners are carrying out pilot reclamation and revegetation of mined-out areas within forest reserves in the Bekwai and Bibiani Forest Districts. Apamprama and other illegally mined forest reserves are in line to be tackled following lessons learnt from our ongoing pilot projects; and
The destroyed Apamprama forest reserve
9. Aggressive reforestation drive led by government through the Forestry Commission and private sector to help re§tore degraded landscapes and protect important watersheds, while mitigating the effects of climate change. Since 2017 over 750,000 hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes have been brought under restoration through forest plantation development, enrichment planting and trees-on-farm (agro-forestry).
The Modified-Taungya model of forest plantation development, which incorporates food cropping during the initial two to three years, produces on average over 100,000 metric tonnes of food crops (plantain, cocoyam, maize, vegetables, legumes, etc.) annually. The various forest landscape restoration activities across the country led by the FC generate an estimated 80,000 jobs within forest-fringe communities annually.
As a public regulator, charged with the protection and sustainable management of Ghana’s forest and wildlife resources, we are deeply concerned about incidents of illegal mining in forest reserves. The fight against illegal mining has been arduous and multifaceted, but we continue to adopt measures aimed at coming to grips with this menace. It has serious socio-economic linkages and therefore needs to be tackled wholistically. We also believe that such an onslaught on the environment is an existential threat and so we have no choice but to do all in our power to address it. We, therefore, call on our traditional leaders and the general public to support the Forestry Commission by providing information on illegal mining in their communities and environs so that the Commission can act swiftly to deal with situations before or when they arise.
The Commission is working with other agencies to provide sustainable alternative livelihood options, especially within communities where illegal mining takes place, to address the issue of youth unemployment and poverty. We are also looking to secure support to augment key logistical requirements, especially operational vehicles, drones, etc. to improve our operational and law enforcement capabilities and to enable the FC to respond appropriately to this existential threat. Together we will win this war.
Polluted Oda River in the forest
THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE
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A dam created in the forest as a result of illegal mining