Think tank welcomes withdrawal of Operation Vanguard

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Gideon Ofosu-Peasah, Deputy Executive Director of ACEES

The Africa Centre for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (ACEES), a think tank interested in   climate, smart mining, energy and environment nexus, has welcomed the decision by the government to withdraw the military from the joint military and police anti-galamsey task force, Operation Vanguard.

ACEES says the use of armed military in the fight against illegal mining anywhere in the world, particularly Congo and Peru, has failed. It explained that evidence suggests that armed security personnel either get caught up in mining operations themselves, receive bribes, perpetrate human rights violations, or have resulted in the loss of lives in some instances.

A statement signed by Gideon Ofosu-Peasah, deputy executive director of ACEES, said Ghana has a history of failed attempts in the use of military interventions from 1980 to date.

The statement added that it suggests a clear evidence that the use of the military in fighting illegal mining is untenable and costly.

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“The issue of artisanal and small-scale mining is a ‘bread and butter issue’ and as such, must be approached with tact,” the statement said.

Change in tactics

ACEES disclosed that, at a point in time in the fight against illegal mining, the informal miners changed their modus operandi to the night due to the inability of the military to provide 24-hour surveillance, considering the landmass they were to cover and the lack of appropriate accoutrement. They added that “our work as a Centre confirms that, often times, informal miners station key informants at vantage points to notify miners on the inrush of the military.”

Withdrawal

The government will from this month withdraw the military component of its anti-illegal mining taskforce, Operation Vanguard, from the field.

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This, according to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), is because, so far, over 1,000 small-scale miners have been vetted and cleared to mine under environmentally friendly laws.

The IMCIM also contends that mining guards and 144 drone pilots have been deployed to monitor the approved miners to continue effective monitoring, hence there won’t be the need for the military presence in the fight.

Recommendations

Meanwhile, ACEES, after commending government on the community mining concept, has made some recommendations to the government to be used in tackling the galamsey menace.

Among the recommendations is that the government must provisionally withdraw any form of state security force from informal mine sites, and encourage the state to incentivise informal miners to obtain legal status by removing barriers to formalization, such as huge costs in obtaining legal status, delays in the permitting process, difficulty in assessing capital, lack of appropriate technology, among others.

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The group also wants the government to leverage the use of geographic information system (GIS) and artificial intelligence (AI), including metal detection technologies (MDTs), to actively monitor environmental impacts on rehabilitated sites, match patterns, analyse and better predict where to find minerals, as used in the Australian small-scale mining sector.

Other recommendations include implementing the Multi-Sectoral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) Appraisal and Implementation Document. This is a five-year strategy that presents an integrated project management approach for achieving overall project outcomes and deliverables. The group also wants a collaboration with key stakeholders to sanitise the galamsey menace; a scrapping of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM); as well as resourcing the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to perform their regulatory roles.

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