The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Obuasi East, Mrs. Faustina Amissah, has told The Chronicle that the incident that happened in Obuasi last week, where illegal miners went on rampage, was a very awful situation that should never happen again.
According to her, the professionalism exhibited by the military personnel protecting the AngloGold Ashanti (AGA)Obuasi mines averted what could have been a disastrous situation that day. Speaking in a telephone interview with The Chronicle from her base in Obuasi, Mrs Amissah said the illegal miners pelted the heavily armed soldiers with stones, but because they wanted to protect the image of the mining conglomerate, the men in green uniform did not react to the provocation.
She noted that if the soldiers had not controlled themselves and rather decided to react to the provocation, something untoward would have happened that day.
She, however, noted that they were compelled to call for re-enforcement from the 2BN in Kumasi, when they realised that the illegal miners were bent on causing trouble, having realised that the military men at the AGA were not ready to engage them in any form of combat.
“They were stoning the soldiers because they have now realised that after all, AGA soldiers will not shoot because of their corporate image, so we are working on certain things to have a local soldier barracks,” she said.
She warned that the failure to find an antidote to the incessant incursions into AGA’s concession could lead to the collapse of the mines once again. “If not, before we realise, we have to close down the mines again,” she said.
She denied claims that the government has recalled all soldiers on guard duties at the AGA, a development that contributed the mayhem that occurred that day.
According to Faustina Amissah, AGA has more than 100 soldiers who are protecting the mines every day, but because of the policy not to match the illegal miners boot for boot, the latter has taken advantage of the situation to misbehave.
“At the moment, no cause for alarm –the place is calm. Everything is normal.The place came to normalcy on Wednesday. I even went to work the following day,” she said.
She, however, disclosed that all the illegal miners who were arrested had been granted police enquiry bail.
The DCE regretted that anytime these illegal miners who are troubling AGA operations are arrested, they create the impression that some of their members had died. She insisted that not a single illegal miner was trapped underground, as they want the world to believe.
“They were not trapped – they staged it. They were only refusing arrest, that is all,” she told The Chronicle and insisted that only 101 illegal miners were arrested and not 300 as is being quoted by a section of the media.
When asked why the illegal miners are still operating despite the war that has been declared on them by the government, she responded that sanctions imposed on them after the arrest are not deterrent enough.
She would, however, not blame the judiciary since they are also working within the ambit of the law that prescribes small penalty units for offenders,which are quickly paid by their (illegal miners) financiers.
“Some of these miners have financiers, so you fine them, their sponsors will come and pay”, she told The Chronicle. She, therefore, called for an amendment to the law so that the offenders could be given a stiffer punishment.
“So if we want a result, then I think this penalty something should be looked at”, she suggested.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM), Mr Abdul Razak Alhassan, has expressed concern over the development in Obuasi and demands urgent solution to the problem.
Speaking in an interview with this reporter, Alhassan did not understand why a rational human being would muster courage to enter AGA’s concession, after his colleagues had previously been rounded up by the security agencies.
He disclosed to The Chronicle that this issue has been lingering as far back as 2015 and during that time, GNASSM, together with some stakeholders engaged the AGA to give out some of its unused concession to the locals, which the mining giant agreed, but the ban imposed on small scale mining disrupted the process.
He alleged that when the ban on the small scale mining was lifted, the concession actually released by the AGA, as they had earlier requested, landed in the hands of people who did not merit it.
Some of the illegal miners who were lucky to get part of the concession later split into groups. This development, he noted, is what is causing the constant invasion of AGA underground mine.
He has, therefore, appealed to stakeholders to meet this splinter group and talk to them to re-join their colleagues who have been given a piece of land to work on.
According to Razak Alhassan, the Small Scale mining sector employs a lot of people and that the state must team up with stakeholders to improve upon the sector.