Mr. Amewu (right) with Yaw Amponsah (first left), Police Officers and journalists on one of the illegal mining sites: inset Mr. Amewu also blasting Mr. Twumasi (second) who had to be schooled by the minister that there is nothing like medium-scale mining in Ghana
THE DISTRICT Mines Inspector for West Akyem in the Eastern Region, Yaw Amponsah, suffered a major embarrassment on Wednesday when he was chastised by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources for coming to work drunk.
The minister, Peter Amewu, had visited some mines in three districts of the region namely, Denkyembuo, Upper West Akyem and Atiwa East, to mark the end of the 21-day ultimatum he gave illegal miners (galamseyers) nationwide to halt their operations and Mr. Amponsah, who came to conduct the minister, the media and officials of the Minerals Commission round the various galamsey sites, appeared drunk.
“You can't do this work with us if you're like this,” Mr. Amewu told 'boozeman' Yaw Amponsah at MA Resources mining site located at Subrisu and believed to be one of the illegal mining sites in the region.
Mr. Amponsah denied being drunk, saying he had taken in some herbs which had made him drowsy.
But the minister was not convinced that the inspector wasn't drunk, and vowed to transfer him from the West Akyem District to the ministry in Accra.
Interestingly, some senior officials of the Commission in the district whom DAILY GUIDE monitored closely during the tour, were at some point overheard querying Mr Amponsah whenever the minister moved away from them, saying he (Amponsah) could have avoided taking in alcohol just for that day when the minister was visiting.
What angered the minister most was the fact that Mr. Amponsah, knowing very well that there was a shorter route to one of the mining sites where it was believed some illegal miners were at work, decided to take the team through a long and tortuous route, creating suspicion that he was in a league with some of the galamseyers.
Mr. Amewu noted that it was due to such behaviours by officials of the Minerals Commission that illegal mining activities have escalated.
He stated clearly that such characters like Mr. Amponsah who appear to be working underground with the illegal miners cannot be trusted in the fight against galamsey.
The minister was also upset with some top officials of the Commission, especially those at the Mines Inspectorate Directorate, whom he claimed are directly responsible for the galamsey menace.
He was particularly shocked when officials of the Commission – the Chief Inspector of Mines, Obiri-Yeboah Twumasi, being one of them -were unable to tell him which mining companies had licences to operate in some particular areas, painting a picture of such chief directors who only work from their air-conditioned vehicles and offices without going to the field to know what's actually happening.
In view of that, Mr. Amewu, who has vowed to see an end to the galamsey menace, promised to employ four mines inspectors in each mining district nationwide and give them motorbikes to help in the fight against illegal mining.
He told the media that excavators would be registered and installed with tracking devices to ensure that they are used within legal limits.
It emerged during the tour that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is supposed to assess the environmental impact of mining activities nationwide, is not monitoring the activities of small-scale miners.
Mr. Amewu, who appeared visibly downhearted with the extent of damages caused to the environment in the districts visited, had sought to find out why the Minerals Commission had not been able to ensure that mining activities are undertaken in a manner that do not cause destruction to the environment.
But officials of the Commission argued that the EPA had not been helping them over the years and that the Agency was only preoccupied with the big mining firms like Newmont Ghana.
The minister said he would ensure that a special desk is created at the Head Office of the Minerals Commission for the EPA “to ensure a one-stop shop” for monitoring mining operations.
On the success of the 21-day ultimatum, the minister said a total of 1,148 dredging machines had been moved from the Rivers Birim, Ankobra, Tano, Mansi, Bia, Pra, Offin and the Black Volta, with 548 excavators withdrawn nationwide.
BY Melvin Tarlue