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20.02.2007 General News

Buried Alive - Illegal Miners Trapped At Obuasi

Buried Alive - Illegal Miners Trapped At Obuasi

Thirty hours and still searching, a rescue effort combining the forces of AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) and the police has failed to yield any of the bodies believed to be trapped under the West Walley Shaft concession of the AngloGold Ashanti mine at Obuasi.

Mine officials are uncertain about the number of victims involved but they believe that more than a dozen illegal miners got trapped underground last Sunday evening when they detonated an explosive.

The General Manager, Human Resource of AGA, Obuasi, Mr Y. B. Amponsah, confirmed the incident in a telephone interview with the Daily Graphic from Obuasi.

He said a few survivors, however, managed to pull out the bodies of two of their colleagues to an unknown destination before the management of AGA, operators of the Obuasi Mine, despatched its team of rescuers and policemen to the site.

With the search proving elusive, authorities of the mine have appealed to the chiefs, opinion leaders and residents of Obuasi and its environs who have information about missing relatives and where they could possibly be to make the information available to the rescue team.

Mr Amponsah said management had also offered an unspecified amount to be paid as reward to any one who would volunteer information on the tragedy.

He explained that if the trapped victims were not located in time and rescued, their decomposed bodies could pose a health hazard to other underground workers.

In a related development, AGA security personnel have arrested six illegal miners underground.

They are Sumaila Walla, Mike Tetteh, 20, and four others who are yet to be identified.

According to Mr Amponsah, the six were arrested with sacks of quartz, explosives, locally-made guns, machetes, food and drinks, including sachet water, wrapped leaves suspected to be Indian hemp and other implements.

They are currently assisting the Obuasi Police and the mine authorities in locating the spot where the illegal miners are said to be trapped.

The illegal miners are said to have developed their own tunnels and concealed them under leaves through which they go underground, often outwitting AGA security.

In the past, illegal mining activities were concentrated on the surface but the activities have been taken underground by the daring illegal miners who attack workers of the mining company to show them where they can locate quality quartz.

Their operations have had a negative effect on gold production at the mine, since their presence does not give the normal workers the conducive atmosphere to operate.

Last August, a combined team of security agencies and AGA security arrested about 21 illegal miners underground who were later prosecuted.

The security agencies late last year also carried out an operation dubbed “Operation flush out” to clear the area of illegal miners but the daring ones have returned and are causing havoc by their operations.

Barely a week ago, the AGA mining rescue team rescued three illegal miners who attempted to steal electrical cables at a sub-station at the Sansu area and sustained severe burns following an explosion which resulted from their activities.

The explosion also led to about six hours of blackout in some residential areas and at the sulphide treatment plant (STP), a vital gold processing plant of the Obuasi Mines.

Story by Boniface Ablekpe