Illegal miners refuse to leave AngloGold’s Obuasi operation

Illegal miners who took over AngloGold Ashanti’s Obuasi operation in Ghana in January this year refuse to leave the mine despite a government order late last week asking them to stop digging for gold and vacate the site by Oct. 10.

AngloGold fired most Obuasi workers in 2014 and put the mine on limited operations as costs soared and the price of bullion fell. 

AngloGold, the world’s No.3 producer of the yellow metal, has asked authorities many times to intervene in the illegal occupation of Obuasi. In May this year, it even filed a dispute with Ghana at an international investor arbitration panel due to its failure to protect the company’s operation.

But experts at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre say the government is unlikely to do anything before the upcoming presidential election on Dec. 7 for fear of losing votes.

“Why will an incumbent government displace about ten thousand of its potential supporters?” Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, a director of academic affairs and research at the Kofi Annan centre told Bloomberg. He noted this is especially true given how tight the election seems to be.

AngloGold fired most Obuasi workers in 2014 and put the mine on limited operations as costs soared and the price of bullion fell. The company’s chief executive, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, has repeatedly said Obuasi is too large and expensive for AngloGold to put back into production by itself.

Last month, Randgold Resources (LON:RRS) CEO Mark Bristow said his company walked from a proposed joint venture with AngloGold to redevelop Obuasi in Dec. last year due to a combination of technical mining issues and management’s concerns about the social situation and the threat of illegal activities around the mine.