The government will from March 2020 withdraw the military component of its anti-illegal mining taskforce, Operation Vanguard, from the field.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining suggested that this is because, so far, over 1,000 small scale miners have been vetted and cleared to mine under environmentally friendly laws, Citi News reports citing its sources.
To continue effective monitoring, mining guards and 144 drone pilots have been deployed to monitor the approved miners.
Operation Vanguard started as a Military-Police Joint Task Force set up in 2017 to combat the operations of illegal miners in Ghana.
The taskforce is regularly in the news for arrests and seizures of mining equipment from illegal miners.
The government has consistently commended the taskforce’s operations despite evidence on the ground suggesting illegal miners’ operations are still contributing to the alarming degradation of the environment.
The taskforce’s operations have been marred by controversy amid allegations of corruption and use of excessive force.
In 2018 for example, three soldiers of the task force were investigated for allegedly trying to extort money from illegal miners in the Wassa Akropong area in the Western Region.
The Chief of Defence Staff had cause to warn security personnel assigned to the Operation Vanguard not to collude with illegal small-scale miners.
The force has also clashed with residents in operation communities in the past.
Military involvement unsustainable?
Military involvement in the fight against illegal mining has also been described as unsustainable by observers like the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Impact Studies, Richard Ellimah.
Mr. Elimah at National Conference on ASM in May 2019 outlined some of the failings of the military over the years starting with the late 1980s where the first recorded nationwide operation against illegal mining was undertaken after the passage of the Small Scale Mining Law, PNDCL 218, 1989.
Another security crackdown on illegal mining took place in November 2006 named “Operation Flush Out” and was noted for allegations of human rights abuses.
In the Report of Human Rights Council to the UN General Assembly from April 2008, the operation was described as “violent and bloody” which resulted in “gross human rights violations.”
In 2013, following renewed concern over the threat of illegal mining, the government sanctioned another security operation under the banner of an “Inter-Ministerial Taskforce”.
This operation was focused on weeding out foreign nationals engaged in illegal small scale mining but the involvement in foreign nationals, mainly Chinese, over the years has only escalated since then.