Africa’s biggest gold producer AngloGold Ashanti said on Wednesday it has “grave and mounting concerns” about illegal mining at its Obuasi mine in Ghana, which has been idle since 2014 when the company laid off thousands of workers.
“Illegal miners have been looting large quantities of high-grade gold bearing material for more than two months.
“In the process they are causing significant damage to critical infrastructure,” Eric Asubonteng, general manager of AngloGold Ghana Ltd, told a news conference.
In January this year, a horde of illegal miners had a tussle with the miner during an invasion on its concession. The skirmishes led to the death of an AngloGold senior manager.
Ghana’s Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Nii Osah Mills, had to intervene prior to the intensification of the feud.
Small-scale miners (galamseyers) in the area accuse AngloGold Ashanti of preventing access to their concessions.
Mr Osah Mills, at the time, said he will attempt to ensure peace in all mining communities and within the industry.
“We will like to have a situation where, in any gold mining area, at any given time, there is calm and everything is well-organised in the gold industry.
“Recently there have been agitations in Obuasi. There has been, in fact, demonstrations in the sense that it boils down to the areas where people in Obuasi, who feel they need to do some mining activities to earn income, feel that they are not being allowed to do the mining,” he explained.
In March this year, AngloGold confirmed that the voluntary process which it commenced in November 2013, to surrender some 60% of the Obuasi mine concession to the Government of Ghana, had been implemented by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
This will provide an opportunity for the Government/ Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to use the land as it sees fit, including to encourage a range of socio-economic development activities in the Obuasi region, AGAG said.
The area in question covers about 273 square kilometers and excludes the Obuasi Mine, which lies on land retained by AGAG.
AngloGold said its primary aim, subject to the outcome of an ongoing feasibility study, remains to turn the Obuasi Mine into a long-life, modern, mining operation that will provide foreign investment, high-quality direct and indirect employment, taxes and foreign exchange revenue to Ghana.
It, however, said the continued presence of illegal miners on the Obuasi Mine “continued to jeopardise this potential. It is critical that the authorities act to resolve this threat to the viability of the Obuasi Mine, in a peaceful manner, and as quickly as possible”.