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Security Alert! Explosives, Guns In Wrong Hands   
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Explosives for mining are considered security materials and heavily regulated. Importers and users of these materials are subjected to strict regulations, however, these materials are increasingly finding their way into ordinary hands, especially illegal miners and on the shelves of pseudo cosmetic shops.

Easy access to these explosives by illegal miners across the country poses not only a new challenge to national efforts at halting the environmental devastation left behind by their operations, but also a threat to national security.

Security experts say the ease with which these controlled materials get into the hands of people without authorization could have dire security consequences for the country, in the face of growing terrorist activities in the sub-region. In Obuasi, a mining town in the southern part of the Ashanti Region, illegal mining activities have taken a dip, but with a new methodology, where the ‘die- hard’ illegal miners have resorted to the use of explosives and increased aggression.

Investigations conducted by The Chronicle indicate that from July 2013 to July 2014, a total of 22 explosive- related cases were reported to the police in the mining town, with a total of 64 arrests made over the period.

The Obuasi Divisional Police Commander, ACP Kofi Dwumfour Berchie, confirmed the surge in the use of explosives in the town. He told The Chronicle that this year alone, there have been about 33 explosive related arrests. None have as yet been prosecuted.

The Chronicle further established that although there has been a significant reduction in illegal mining activities in the town, there has been an increase in aggression in the operations of the remaining groups where explosives mark their operations.

In March, this year, there was a reported incident at the AngloGold Obuasi mines, where an illegal miner attempted blowing up the security with an explosive, but ended up damaging his own hands, when the explosive went off.

The 20 year old Alabila Atia and his accomplices, had sneaked into the underground operational areas of AngloGold on March 19, 2014, and attempted to blow the mine’s security on duty with the explosive, when they tried to apprehend him.

He was charged GH¢ 300 when the matter went to court, or would have served a three months imprisonment if he was unable to pay the fine. Investigations revealed that, illegal miners are now prospecting and mining gold in fashions that were unusual to the normal small scale illegal mining activities, popularly referred to as ‘galamsey‘. The term ‘galamsey‘ is a corrupted form for ‘gather and sell ‘.

The Chinese factor

Ghana’s Minerals and Mining Act 2006, prohibits foreigners from small-scale gold mining on plots under 25 acres. However, there has been an influx from foreigners, mostly from China, whose activities have wrecked more havoc on the environment and water bodies than ever recorded in the history of Ghana. The Chinese inventions in small machinery and use of explosives for the illegal mining continue to blaze the trail for the search of the precious metal at the expense of the environment.

In 2013 alone, Ghana deported a total of 4,700 illegal Chinese miners in a military clamp down on illegal miners across the country. 1n the absence of the Chinese, (though hundreds of these Chinese are still hiding in mountainous gold rich regions of the country, their Ghanaian counterparts have taken over the use of the technology left behind.

Regulations of explosives

The Parliament of Ghana passed into lawthe new regulation to provide the framework for more control in the storage and usage of explosives, to ensure that the safety of workers and the general public is not compromised and the environment is also not unduly affected.

This follows the passing of the Minerals and Mining Explosives regulation, 2012 (LI 2177). Per the new regulations, any person who intends to buy and use explosives for mining purposes is mandated by the law to apply to the Commission for an operating license.

Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Dr. Tonny Aubynn explained that the importation, transportation and storage of these explosive materials are heavily regulated by the Commission, in collaboration with the Ministry of interior.

“The mining companies are under strict monitoring and inspection. They cannot transport or use their explosives without our knowing and we even want to know who is doing the blasting, “he explained. He noted that blasting is a specialized activity which requires certification.

The Chronicle’s investigations, however, revealed that in spite these regulations, the proliferation of these mining explosives into the hands of illegal miners is still on the ascendency, thus posing danger to national security. In some instances, these controlled explosives, such as gelatin dynamites were traced to cosmetic shops. These traders set up legitimate businesses and use them to sell these controlled explosives without license.

The Obuasi police commander, ACP Kofi DwumfourBerchie told the Chronicle that illegal miners are resorting to use of guns and other weapons to protect their operations. “Almost all the ‘galamseyers’ are acquiring guns to protect their activities, but we have been mounting checks to retrieve them, ” he said.

Dr. Tonny Aubynn holds the opinion that a stakeholder approach is needed to curb the proliferation of these explosives. He noted that while the Minerals Commission is responsible for the monitoring of the activities of the mining industry, the security apparatus, and the various District Assemblies must be proactive in dealing with illegal users of these explosives.

The security threat

Security experts say the proliferation of these explosives considering the volatile security situation in the sub region, where the activities of terrorist groups have taken centre stage in neighboring Nigeria should be a concern for all. President John Dramani Mahama in May this year placed the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) on high alert to defend any possible attack on the country by terrorist group, Boko Haram, from neigbouring Nigeria.

According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, terrorists operating domestically are most likely to target mining sites and quarries to steal dynamiteor improvise it manufactures.

It is suspected that dynamites were likely used in the 2004 Madrid train station bombings that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 and Eric Rudolph’s Sandy Springs, Georgia abortion clinic bombing.
Source: Chronicle

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