Authorities at the Forestry Commission are excited over a 15-month jail term slapped on four illegal miners who invaded the Jeni Forest Reserve in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region.
Bekwai Circuit Court presided by His Lordship Justice A.W.K. Nawurah sentenced each of the four galamsey operators who encroached on the Manso Essumenja section of the reserve to 15-months imprisonment with hard labour.
The convicts are Simon Nsoh, 40; Yaw Aning, 28; Yaw Appiah and Hamidu Sulemana, 22 and 19 years respectively.
They were arrested by the Rapid Response Team of the Forestry Commission on September 10, 2018.
The team ceased pumping machine, shovels, a gold washing machine, among other artisanal mining equipment.
The four illegal miners pleaded guilty when they first appeared before the court on Friday, forcing the judge to give the ruling.
The Prosecutor, Detective Inspector Stephen Ofori, told the court the action of the convicts who until their arrest were mining gold illegally have caused damage to the forest reserve which is under the Bekwai District Forestry.
Officials are happy at the sentence, saying it will deter many others from engaging in the illegal mining especially in forest reserves.
Photo: George Agbewoshie is the Bekwai District Forestry Manager.
"It gives warning to the general public that we need to refrain from forest offences so this will serve as a deterrent to others so that people may not indulge in forest offences such as illegal mining, illegal farming and lumbering," said Mr Agbewoshie.
According to him, some court judgments have not been punitive enough to deter encroachers.
"Sometimes feeble fines are given to the people and they are able to pay and go back to the field to indulge in illegal mining. Sometimes the cases are not much deterrent in terms of fines that are imposed on them.
"I want to use this opportunity to commend the court, commend the prosecution and all those who helped in ensuring we successfully prosecute these people who engaged in illegality," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Agbenowoshie says the commission will continue to sensitise the public on the need to protect forest reserves in the country.