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Saturday, June 25, 2022

EPASL intensifies raids and monitoring of the Outamba Kilimi National Park

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya, Senior Information Education and Communications Officer, EPASL

In what could be referred to as a vibrant step towards the protection of the natural resources of the country, the Environmental Protection Agency of Sierra Leone (EPASL) in collaboration with the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) joined forces in ensuring that all illegal activities especially illicit gold mining that is being carried out within the Outamba Kilimi National Park (OKNP) are stopped and eradicated.

The operation code named by the RSLAF as “Operation Python” was mainly carried at night targeting host communities harbouring foreigners and their mining sites within the national park. Whilst some people were on deep sleep with their loved ones, that was the alternative for this team and at exactly 11:30pm on Wednesday 18th May 2022, the team on its python operation burnt down the dredges at the Kalmata sites using paddle boats to cross over to their locations within the Little Scarecies river. It was terrible and you cannot see where you are going only with the aid of mobile torchlights.

The foreigners who are mainly Ghanaians seen recently in many raids across the country could not be spotted either because they got intelligence from villagers and whispered to take the back or they were not on site during the time of our operations. Community people however confirmed their presence and informed the team that these foreigners had long left to unknown locations.

The delegation took days to reach out and conducted searches in strategic locations ranging from Kalmata, Yembereh, Simbaria to Gbereya among many locations within and around the OKNP with successful burning down of an impressive number of dredges owned and believed to be directed by foreigners and harboured by community people in these locations.

During this special operation, a number of identify cards from the National Health Insurance Scheme of the Republic of Ghana were discovered in the villages with names such as Ayerh Ebenezer Nll inscribed on one of them. In order to get access to finances, these Ghanaians also operate bank accounts at the Union Trust Bank and other commercial banks in Sierra Leone. These traceable identity and bank identity cards were discovered during the operations in the middle of the Outamba Kilimi National Park. 

Since the President of Sierra Leone issued a warning and instructed for a committee to be setup in June of 2021 to undertake regular monitoring and raids on the river beds and water ways across the country, this is part of such effort instituted by the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone towards the protection of these river beds and banks from gold mining. It is worth noting that the Sierra Leone riverbeds are presently facing intense pressure from these illegal activities.

“With the support of the President, the Board of Directors management and the Executive Chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency (Dr. Bondi Gevao), the Agency is ever ready and stand firm to ensure that all illegal gold mining activities are stopped within the river beds across the country” said Lamin Opie Tarawalie, Deputy Director, Field Operations and Extension at the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone. Ever since the operations started, the EPASL had succeeded in burning more than two hundred dredges within and around the Pampana, Sewa, Jong, Little Scarcies, Moa and a host of other rivers and tributaries across the country.

‘The EPASL does not give any mining license or encourage any company or allow any illicit gold mining activity to be undertake in or around our river beds across the country. This is because we all as Sierra Leoneans depend on the rivers for our survival and if we allow them to be polluted, it would be a big blunder on our side’ said Dr. Bondi Gevao, Executive Chairman of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone. Dr. On behalf of the Agency and Board of Directors, Dr. Bondi pledges his continued support towards activities that will ensure the protection on the environment across the country.

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