AngloGold worker killed as illegal miners storm site

AngloGold Ashanti’s Ghana head of corporate affairs was killed last week when hundreds of illegal miners stormed AngloGold’s Obuasi mine in Ghana.

The mine saw attacks on the 30th and 31st of January, which saw military deployed on site, but as violence subsided the military withdrew from the gold mine.

However unrest erupted again last week, which saw one worker – John Owusu – killed.

The incident allegedly occured when officials on the mine were swarmed by ollegal miners, known as galamsey, according to the Ghanaian Times.

When the officials attempted to retreat in vehicles they reportedly hit and ran over Owusu.

The violence has now reached a point where the AngloGold has felt the need to ask the Ghanaian Government to redeploy the military to protect the mine.

“The onus for ensuring safety and security of individuals and property in any country, and therefore restoring safety and security to the site, lies with the authorities,” the company said at the time, in a emailed statement to Bloomberg.

It came after AngloGold slashed jobs and put the mine on limited operations.

AngloGold has now withdrawn all non-essential personal from the site.

It has since released a statement on the incident, and the ongoing unrest at the mine.

"In the interests of safety, AngloGold Ashanti Ghana Limited has withdrawn all employees performing non-essential functions from its Obuasi Gold Mine, following the incursion of hundreds of illegal miners inside the fenced operational areas of the site since 5 February 2016," AngloGold stated.

"Employees remaining on site are performing critical tasks including underground pumping and ventilation, water treatment, provision of medical services and maintenance of electrical facilities that provide power and water to employee homes and surrounding communities.

"This latest invasion of the site followed the withdrawal of government military protection from the mine on Tuesday, 2 February, after an initial incursion on 30 and 31 January 2016. No reasons for the military’s withdrawal were given and – to AngloGold Ashanti’s knowledge – no other mine sites in Ghana with a military presence have been affected.

"It is important to point out that Ghana Army has a Memorandum of Understanding (Military MOU) with the Chamber of Mines, on behalf of its members, to provide military personnel for deployment at their mining operations.

"AngloGold Ashanti Ghana has noted the conflicting reports about the events at Obuasi mine, including the circumstances leading to the tragic death of AngloGold Ashanti employee John Owusu. John was fatally injured in a car accident as he and colleagues tried to flee after a large group of illegal miners hurled rocks and other projectiles at mine employees, police and security personnel observing their activities.

"This attack was entirely unprovoked."

The miner went on to state:"AngloGold Ashanti Ghana cannot reasonably be expected to prevent or control a situation such as that at the Obuasi mine. The company has established a significant security system for the mine, including a 21km security fence around the operational area, as well as the deployment of a large security force of almost 400 personnel due to the size and spread of the operation. The company’s security forces do not carry lethal weapons, which is in accordance with Ghanaian law. The company’s security forces also operate under the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights.

"AngloGold Ashanti Ghana has made appeals to government representatives for the reinstatement of the previous security arrangements, as without them, the company’s employees and assets have been left vulnerable to attacks from illegal miners who ultimately do not respect other forms of protection."

Ghana has had long running issues with illegal mining.

In 2013 violence erupted between locals and illegal Chinese miners, after the miner shot local Ghanaians, while in 2012 a Ghanaian government crackdown on illegal mining in the country killed a 16 year old Chinese miner, sparking protests from China.

This resulted in the Ghanaian government expelling more than 4500 illegal Chinese miners from the country.

The taskforce also arrested Russians, Nigerians and Niger citizens. Palmdeti said everyone who engages in illegal mining will be arrested regardless of nationality.

South Africa took the action against illegal miners a step further, and in 2014 “declared war” on illegal miners.

According to Sibanye Gold CEO, Neal Froneman, illegal mining is well organised in the country, and illegal miners don't only go into abandoned mines.

"They disrupt our operations, they sabotage our blasting over Christmas, they drop our boxes on the ground; it is literally war," he said.

As the gold price begins to strengthen it is unknown whether AngloGold will reopen its Obuasi mine in Ghana, and the effect this will have on illegal mining in the region.


Image: Ghanaian Times

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