The Koforidua Circuit Court ‘B’ presided over by Her Honour Mercy Adei Kotei has convicted the 29 foreign illegal miners arrested in the Atewa Forest Reserve to a total fine of Ghc15, 690,000.
In default the illegal miners will serve 139 years.
Three of the convicts were sentenced to 2500 penalty units equivalent to Chc30,000 each in default serve three years while the other 26 convicts were fined 50,000 penalty units equivalent to ghc600,000 each or in default serve a five year prison sentence each.
All the convicts were found guilty of all the charges of conspiracy to commit crime, illegal mining and mining without license.
25 out of the accused persons are Nigeriens while the others are from Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Togo.
According to the court, claims of the accused persons of hunting for grass cutter and flying birds in the forest reserve during the time of their arrest could not be backed by any evidence.
No weapon was found on the accused to justify the hunting claims, the court added. But mining equipment were rather retrieved from the forest.
The court adduced that the convicts provided conflicting evidence indicating they were deceiving the court.
The facts of the case as presented to the court commencing trial of the accused persons by the Deputy Eastern Regional State Attorney, Cyril Boateng Keteku, is that the complainant in the case is a team of forestry taskforce made up of police, military and personnel of the Forestry Services Division, while the accused persons are nationals mainly from Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
On January 26, 2017, the complainants, on their routine patrols in the forest, chanced upon the accused persons at about 5:00am using sophisticated mining equipment to excavate the soil to prospect for gold and other minerals in the forest reserve without license.
The prosecutor further explained that the team succeeded in arresting 29 of them, namely Mohammed Omar, Mohammed Haruna, Amadu Basar, Dauda Zinjima, Amar Mohamed, Kassin Bramah, Mahamudu Arubakari and Sitah Zibo.
The others are Hamidu Amadu, Musah Iddrisu, Munkaila Bomboro , Omaru Sulemana ,Addul M. Hudu, Zibo Alibu,Haruna Mumuni, Abdulai K. Kibo, Bukari Musah, Musah Ahmed and Sulley Aadum.
The rest are Munkaila Salifu, Yakuba Adamu, Yao Denay, Fuseini Amadu, Gubar Jatah, Barim Sribil, Hamza Gudiah Nameh Keita and Jibril Amidu.
Sophisticated mining equipment were retrieved, adding that a search in the forest revealed that the activities of the illegal miners had destroyed greater portions of the forest reserve and also created death trap holes in the forest.
He said the suspects were escorted to the regional police headquarters in Koforidua, where they were interrogated and their caution statements taken.
The prosecutor added that the accused persons could not produce any licence authorizing their mining activities, hence they were charged with three counts each of conspiracy to mine without license, mining without license and trespassing of forest reserves.