Sekondi, March 15, GNA - Illegal gold mining (galamsey) is to be banned in the Western Region by the end of March, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the Regional Minister, said on Tuesday. At a meeting with representatives of galamsey operators in the region at Sekondi, he said galamsey operators who wish to continue with their trade would have to register as small-scale industrialists with the Ministry of Lands and Forestry in Sekondi. Mr Aidoo said the government is prepared to give those who register technical training and financial support from the Minerals Development Fund to enable them carry on their businesses. He suggested to galamsey operators to form associations and co-operatives to enable them to properly utilise this assistance. The Ministry of Lands and Forestry would find alternative sites for those who regularise their operations. Mr Aidoo appealed to illegal gold miners operating at the Ankobra River Bridge, Bungalow Four and the Bondaye Shaft at Prestea to vacate those areas by the deadline. He said the ban is not targeted at individuals and groups because of their political affiliations but forms part of government policy to phase out galamsey. Mr Aidoo said the exercise would be carried out with a human face so as not to antagonise anybody. ''The exercise is not intended to deprive galamsey operators of their means of livelihood but to safeguard national security.'' Mr Aidoo said galamsey operators especially at Prestea are using explosives to exploit underground gold on concessions belonging to mining companies. He said armed galamsey operators steal the explosives from companies. Mr Aidoo said many foreigners are also engaged in the practice and if the lessons of wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'ivoire are anything to go by, this is a threat to the stability of the country. He said galamsey is illegal because gold and all minerals are vested in the state and therefore to mine gold, one needs licence and mining lease.