There are mixed feelings among residents of communities in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region ahead of the arrival of the joint police and military task force on illegal and small-scale mining.
While farmers who are the hardest hit by the devastation caused by illegal mining are excited, galamsey operators are fuming in anger amid panic over the fate of businesses.
Financial service providers are also apprehensive about the state of their business.
The district is one of the largest hubs for galamsey activities in the country.
Financial institutions operating in the area say savings withdrawals have increased since the government announced the deployment of the anti-galamsey police-military task force.
General Manager of Adom Bi Microfinance, Enoch Boakye, says fear has gripped many of the company’s clients.
According to him, the frequency and volume of withdrawals of deposit have increased since the announcement that the task force has been deployed.
“There are going to be police and soldiers combined and if you there try to confront them, they will shoot you dead. So the majority of these people are running away and nobody will run away leaving his cash, so they come and take their cash.
“For now, we are treading cautiously other than that we will find ourselves wanting,” he said.
The joint military and police taskforce has been deployed to Ashanti, Eastern and Western regions.
The move by the President is to intensify the fight against the destruction of the environment which has attracted concerns from many interest groups and individuals.
Some galamsey operators are angry at the deployment, accusing the government of being unfair to them.
“They told us to wait after six months but after the six months, they are now here with military personnel and their posture is as though there is war in Ashanti region. We are disappointed in the President; we are surprised the government is employing this tactic to address the issue. Even during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict, I don’t think such armoured vehicles were used. It is not fair,” one operator said.
Another small-scale miner said: We those with papers should be given license to work as they promised earlier. We understand we must work with license that should be done early so that we can even pay taxes. Staying home for six months without working has really affected us because it is difficult to feed ourselves. That’s our only livelihood.”
Farmers are the worst hit by the negative effects of galamsey activities, and they are excited about government measures to rescue them.
A farmer cooperative union in Amansie West district, comprising of over 3000 members says it is prepared to support the joint task force.
President of the union, Pastor Thomas Oppong, says the union can help them by feeding the personnel.
“I am very glad the military is coming to our communities. We shall help them even in their meals, we can even assist them to identify the affected communities.
“We shall let our people cook for them. When they enter our communities, I know the galamsey men will stop what they are doing so I am happy about it”.
District Chief Executive, William Asante Bediako says the clampdown will, in the end, benefit all Ghanaians, including even the miners themselves.
“Their effort is to compliment what we have been doing here already and it’s been a hell for us, and we are excited they are here to help us. But I am sure as their presence here will compel those who are recalcitrant will even advise themselves.
“We will be ready to accommodate them when need be,” he said.