MINE WORKERS across the country are threatening an indefinite strike by the end of the month if issues concerning their optimum security at the workplace are not effectively addressed.
Specifically, the workers want government to demonstrate vital interest in their safety at the mine sites.
The Secretary General of Ghana Mine Workers Union, Mr. Prince Williams Ankrah told DAILY GUIDE in an interview that mine workers could no longer continue to work under life-threatening situations, arguing that though it was an undeniable fact that every worker was bound to be accosted with some form of hazard in the discharge of his duties, the case of mine workers was astronomical.
Deliberating on some of the hazards mine workers are confronted with, Mr. Ankrah mentioned the activities of “galamsey operators”.
Citing last week's fire outbreak at AngloGold Ashanti in Obuasi where the main powerhouse that supplies electricity to the northern territory of the mine was allegedly set ablaze by illegal miners thereby bringing operations to a standstill and trapping 37 miners underground for close to 10 hours as an example, the Secretary General opined that mine workers were not safe with the continuous existence of 'galamseyers'.
"People think that it is only mining companies who are always at the receiving end of the atrocious activities of 'galamseyers', forgetting a simple fact that miners who travel as far as 4000 feet down to explore ore are constantly confronted with 'galamseyers' who have armed themselves to the teeth.”
He contended that there had been numerous instances where miners had been maimed underground by 'galamseyers' when they tried to stop them from operating illegally.
According to Mr. Ankrah, many miners had become paupers because of a disability they developed in the course of duty and for the fact that their respective companies did not pay them adequate compensations.
He noted further that most family members of miners thrive on uncertainty any time their relations go to work because they are not absolutely sure whether they would return safely or not due to the ever increasing dangers they face.
The chief scribe predicted that with 'galamseyers' changing their modus operandi and attacking miners who they perceive to be threats to their illegal operations, security of miners was going to be further endangered.
Referring to the recent Obuasi incident where 37 miners stood the risk of losing their lives had the fire outbreak affected the refrigeration and the ventilation plant that blows oxygen to miners underground, Mr. Ankrah demanded that immediate steps be taken to deal with the situation.
He expressed the view that government could not run away from the responsibility of safeguarding the safety of miners and mining companies in general.
The Secretary General argued that apart from miners constituting a sizable portion of the country's total workforce and the financial benefits the state derives from mining, government should be naturally interested in the welfare of miners because they basically constitute the heart of mining companies.
"We are ready to stage an indefinite nationwide sit-down strike to press home our demands for government's involvement in our security at the workplace by the end of the month if those who matter in this circumstance turn deaf ear to this humble request," Mr Ankrah reiterated.
He went on to say that government could get involved effectively by allocating a concession to 'galamseyers' to embark on small-scale mining and also fully recognizing their trade.
On a temporal basis, the Secretary General enjoined government to detail joint military/police detachment to mining sites to protect miners and equipment such as electrical inputs that have a direct implication on miners as they go about their duties.
He disagreed with a section of the public who holds the conviction that the security of miners should be the responsibility of mining companies alone, stating that the complex nature of the issue over-runs the capability of the companies, which he said were doing their best.
"AngloGold Ashanti currently spends roughly $10 thousand on securing the safety of miners and its investments every month, yet security at the mine is nothing proud to comment about."
He pointed out that the public also at times frustrates the efforts of mining companies to protect miners and their valuable investments by unduly condemning them for not respecting human rights.
Mr. Ankrah related that such unfriendly attitudes by a section of the public who blatantly forgets that human rights go with responsibilities, was rendering the companies ineffective in dealing with security issues.
He pleaded with the public to passionately dissect issues that come to them from mining companies, particularly those with an undertone of miners' security, and help solve them rather than giving “the dog a bad name just to hang it”. From Morgan Owusu, Obuasi