Operation VANGUARD is a Ghanaian Presidential initiative aimed at ending an illegal mining activities otherwise referred to as “galamsey”. Following this initiative, a Joint Military and Police Taskforce (JTF) of 400 personnel, comprising 200 military and 200 police personnel was formed to deal with the menace of degrading the forests and polluting the rivers and water bodies in the affected areas.
The JTF was deployed to the most affected areas in the Eastern, Western and Ashanti Regions. The troops were deployed to the affected areas after a pre-deployment training from 19 to 26 July 2017 and launched to the Forward Operational Bases (FOBs).
Operation VANGUARD was formally launched at a ceremony at the Forecourt of the Directorate of Public Relations in Burma Camp on 30 July 2017. The ceremony was performed by a panel of Ministers forming the Inter-Ministerial Committee with the Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant General OB Akwa and the Inspector General of Police, Mr David Asante-Appeatu in attendance.
The pre-operational training of the troops was necessary among others:
- To allocate and designate operational areas for troops.
- To create opportunity for all ranks to sharpen their individual and collective operational skills.
- To teach the rules of engagement (ROE) for both military and police personnel and also directives to enable them enforce the law.
- To harmonise operational doctrine in order to facilitate interoperability.
- To facilitate bonding and espirit-de-corps amongst troops.
Some challenges the JTF faced included inadequate transport for the movement of troops and equipment and the difficulties involved in the evacuation of seized heavy equipment like excavators from illegal mining sites to the Police Stations.
In spite of the challenges faced by the JTF, Operation VANGUARD performed creditably and was a huge success as it ensured the establishment and maintenance of an effective, robust hybrid and operational unit, building of confidence in the local communities by establishing good relations with the people, making significant number of arrests and seizures, reducing drastically if not eliminating wanton destruction of the environment. Also, the JTF deterred illegal miners to discontinue their activities of illegal mining on water bodies.
The destruction of over 6,000 changfangs has helped to improve the turbidity of some river bodies, thereby reducing the cost of production of potable water. Additionally, the presence of Operation VANGUARD Taskforce in the Forward Operational Areas has drastically reduced crime rate and caused the voluntary evacuation of several excavators from the hinterlands to the urban centres.
The ban on small scale mining was lifted on Monday 18 December 2018; however, that of illegal small scale mining (Galamsey) is still in force.