About 250 illegal Chinese and Ghanaian miners operating on the AngloGold Ashanti concession in Obuasi Municipal Area in Ashanti Region took to their heels when military team of 60 men and officers, from the Kumasi 4th Battalion Infantry, stormed their operational bases last Saturday to remove illegal small scale miners operating on the company’s concession.
The military exercise, is said to be the beginning of the second phase of the government’s initiative to destroy illegal mining operational bases and flush illegal miners in the municipality.
Galamsey is undermining the credibility of the government and its ability to maintain law and order in the mining communities. The activities of these galamsey miners have already taken a toll on water bodies and farmlands in these areas, creating water shortages in some parts of the country.
Recent shortage of quality drinking water in and outside the municipality has been attributed to the illegal mining operations being carried at the upper fringes of the Oda and Jimi Rivers, in collaboration with some chiefs in the area.
The Obuasi municipality, which has a population of 250,000, has acquired the notorious image as the ‘galamsey headquarters’ of Ghana due to the sheer numbers of illegal miners, allegedly supported by ‘political and big businessmen’ who are briskly operating in the municipality with impunity as they claim “when the sun goes down we are the kings”.
Though no individual or group other than AngloGold Ashanti, have been licenced to operate in the municipality, the municipal authorities as well as well as the security agencies have closed their eyes to the irresponsible destruction, which follow the trial of illegal mining. About a dozen gold buying centres, apparently without genuine have appeared along high roads in the township, under the noses of the local police, but it is business as usual.
The Township, is believed to harbour as many as 10,000 to 15,000 illegal small scale miners, according the small scale miners association, with majority of them coming from other regions of the country in search of jobs; but in recent times, their ranks have been swollen by all kinds of illegal miners from China, whose favourite mining areas include rivers beds in the Obuasi Municipal and Amansie Central District.
“Their preferred mining methods involving blocking rivers and streams, which enable use their front and back end loaders to scoop the tonnes of soil from the river beds and then use mercury to aggregate the gold harvest. In the end they leave the rivers and farmlands heavily contaminated and poisonous”, Robert Nuako, a civil society analyst who also works for a water company in Kumasi explained.
Since March 18, combined teams of police and the military, under the direction and command of the national security, have successfully reduced illegal mining cases in and around the Obuasi mine, but independent security sources say there are still some illegal miners scrounging on the concession, under the nose of the local police and other security agencies.
Both local and Chinese illegal miners are returning in drips and drabs, allegedly with support from the interested politicians, chiefs and the police. It is understood that this time the crack military team will not only arrest illegal miners caught for trial but will seize accoutrements and pieces of equipment used for their galamsey operations. A source close to the taskforce, who called for unanimity said “we are under instruction to seize and transport all the pieces of equipment being used by the illegal miners from Obuasi and will make sure this time we take all of them away”.
AngloGold Ashanti meanwhile has debunked information making rounds that its management has approved some part of the Obuasi concession for illegal mining. According to the story in the Obuasi and Amansie Central communities, AngloGold Ashanti has allegedly set aside and approved certain areas of the main concession for illegal miners, after a meeting between leaders of the Obuasi small scale miners association and Obuasi management.
AngloGold Ashanti Public Affairs Manager was quick to point out that “the company does not support illegality”, in an interview. “There is no truth in that story. AngloGold Ashanti has not set aside any part of the concession to any individual or group of illegal small scale miners. We have met the leaders of the small scale miners before, but at no time did we approve such concession”.
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|