The convicts are also to pay a fine of GHS 240,000 each.
The three, Joseph Donkoh, 40, Joseph Paul, 27, and Charles Ewuse, 27, were arrested on 16th February 2021, carrying out illegal small-scale mining in the Cape-3-Point Forest Reserve of the Western Region according to the Prosecutor of the case, Sergeant Robert Amonoo Yawson.
They were charged with conspiracy to commit crime and undertaking small-scale mining operations without licence contrary to Section 23(1) of the Criminal Offenses Act, and Undertaking Small Scale Mining without licence contrary to Section 99(2) of the Amended Minerals and Mining Act of 2019, ACT 995.
The Presiding Judge, Mrs. Abigail Animah Asare in her ruling on Wednesday, June 9th, 2021, sentenced each of the three accused persons to 15 years imprisonment on the two charges; and also fined each of them GHS 240,000 each.
If they default in paying the fine, they will each serve two additional weeks in jail.
According to the Judge, Mrs. Abigail Animah Asare, she was lenient with the sentence because she “took into consideration the fact that the accused persons were first offenders and also did not waste the precious time of the court”.
‘We’re not only burning equipment; ‘Operation Halt’ has arrested 45 people – Dame
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godred Dame, recently responded to the criticism that the government is not doing enough to prosecute persons engaged in illegal mining.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Newsfile, he said the perception that “we are interested in the equipment and not the prosecution of the people is wrong.”
His comments came amid the debate over the burning of illegal mining equipment like excavators which has been heavily criticised.
But Mr. Dame said, amid the furore over the burning of excavators, arrests are being made by security agencies partaking in the ‘Operation Halt’ anti-illegal mining task force.
“As many as about 45 people are on trial as a result of operations taken in the past two weeks. Most importantly, it involves about 10 Chinese nationals,” he stated.
Mr. Dame further defended the President’s backing of the burning of excavators by members of ‘Operation Halt’.
President Akufo-Addo has asked persons who are dissatisfied with the seizure and burning of their excavators and other mining equipment to seek legal redress.
In his defence of President Akufo-Addo, Mr. Dame referenced the 2018 decision of the Kumasi High Court not to award compensation to Exton Cubic Group, a mining company with links to businessman, Ibrahim Mahama, over the seizure of its mining equipment.
“The principles that the President set out in his speech on Wednesday were actually the foundations for the decision of the High Court in Kumasi. The High Court endorsed the principle that no right can accrue from the illegality,” the Attorney General argued.