AS OBUASI MINE SITS ON TIME BOMB
Barely three months after the 'merger' between Ghana's Ashanti Goldfields Company Ltd (AGC) and South African's Anglogold, the corporate future of the amalgamated company seems to be in the limbo, not to mention the danger that looms on the labour front at the Obuasi mine.
Talking to a cross section of miners in Obuasi, the Lens Investigative Team has established that there is a silent revolt that is rocking the Obuasi mine; and if no acceptable solution is found soon, this revolt may well deal a deadly blow to the operations of the company far beyond what pertained during the strike action of May 1999. This is so because unlike the strike action, what is happening now is that the miners come to work alright, clock and descend underground but virtually nothing gets done at the close of the day. On the surface things appear normal but in reality the silent revolt is breeding a dangerous culture of holding operations to ransom.
Investigations reveal that the ore pad at the Sulphide Treatment Plant (STP), the biggest Biox treatment plant in the world, is almost always empty, as delivery of ore from underground is at a record low. This has led to dry-running of the treatment plant either to keep the gold leaching bacteria alive or to shore up the corporate image at this trying time. Consequently, as operating cost soars, gold production has plummeted.
According to the miners and some of the displeased senior staff, the truth of the Ashanti-Anglogold deal has just dawned on them. "We have been fooled. All along, we have laid down our lives only to feed fat a few greedy people and their cronies; worse of it is that our own government could conspire with the Chief Executive, Mr. Sam Jonah, to blindfold us into a total sell-out. Now we realise we have been left hanging high and dry whilst they smile all the way to the bank", one miner lamented.
Though some senior officers contacted admitted the unfortunate situation on the mine, they sought to blame the low production records to frequent equipment breakdown and a change in production strategy shifting focus onto the south African mine. "You see", one senior staff explained, "our new MD is committed to turning the Sansu mine to a 21st Century mine which would service the rest of the mine when all is done. That is where the attention is now. To that effect new equipment are being bought and we expect the problem to resolve soon".
When asked if he knew that the 'boys' are seriously aggrieved, the senior official who is reported to have bagged a cool ¢200 million during the recently concluded Ashanti-Anglo gold deal, had this to say: "I have heard that they are angry that some of us senior officials have earned so much. But it was not our fault, because these are proceeds of shares that were bought sometime back for a section of the senior staff as a means of motivating us not to leave the mine. But remember that not every senior staff member is a beneficiary, so it could not have been a calculated attempt to enrich a session of the work force at the detriment of others".
Another senior official, who did not want his comment put on tape strongly opposed the views of his colleague, saying: "This is unfair, and has obviously created enmity between us and others. Though I have received this, employees of A.G.C. are also richer whilst the mine labourer who has worked for years underground takes not even a penny".
Narrating their story, the aggrieved miners claimed that it was only after millions of cedis were dumped into the accounts of some big shots that the hazy issue of merger or acquisition, Rangold or Anglogold became clear. Hitherto, they thought the battling over technicalities on the floor of parliament and in political circles had nothing to do with their own future or fortune. "Now we know the true colour of Kufour. Whilst the Guinean President fought on behalf of the Siguiri workers and made sure that his nation and the workers got their fair share of the sales proceeds, our President connived and condoned with the exploiters to deceive us and rob us," declared a peeved miner.
Giving the background to the callous treatment meted out to the miners, one elderly miner related what he called the "the whole Story". "You see, Sam Jonah is a very vindictive person. He has never forgiven the miners for burning and burying his effigy during the strike of May 1999. As a result, he has nursed the desire to exact vengeance against them He has harboured this same venom against the Ex-president Flt. Lt. Rawlings also."
He explained that, the offence of the ex-president is simply this: Flt Lt J.J. Rawlings refused to guarantee an additional loan facility from the world bank and the IMF which Sam Jonah was urging the government to do. After securing loans upon loans for the Ashanti Mine Expansion Project which gave birth to KMS and in effect to other sister Mines like Ayuanfuri, Iduaprim, Bibiani, Siguiri, Geita, Federa Rebecca etc, the former President thought it was not prudent to continue guaranteeing additional facilities given the reckless gambling style of Sam Jonah, which the latter called Hedging.
According to the miner, this was to be the last straw that turned Rawlings the man who catapulted Sam Jonah into stardom into his worst enemy. Peeved and seething with vengeance, Sam Jonah is said to have hatched a plan to teach his former boss a lesson, especially since he claimed he was no longer a member of staff of A.G.C. but a hireling of Lonmin.
The miners contend that the millions of cedis that have been quietly paid into the accounts of top A.G.C. staff were aimed at buying their silence so they do not reveal the secret behind the so called merger between Anglo gold and A.G.C. But in spite of all this the cat seems to be out of the bag.
Mr. Sam Jonah entered into an unholy relationship with Anglogold when he sold 50% of Geita Mine in Tanzania. It is believed that there was an understanding at the time that everything would be done to follow that move with the sale of Ashanti to them as well in due time. He could not have done that if NDC was still in power, so means were found to support the campaign of the NPP behind the scenes.
As part of the scratch me I scratch you deal, the NPP government once in power was duty bound to support Sam Jonah's 'pact' to sell AGC to his partners. Our sources indicate that the Kufuor regime in partnership with Mr. Jonah decided to keep Ghanaians in darkness by code-naming the Outright Sale of Ashanti, as "Merger". This is the reason why everybody in government and on the side of Sam Jonah kept contradicting themselves in their vain attempt to explain the word Merger to the world.
Rangold got wind of this and nearly spoilt the deal by making a realistic offer for the 'take-over' that Ghanaians were conned into thinking was a Merger.
In the midst of the Rangold/Anglo Gold rumpus, the indecisive and ever vacillating President, claimed that his advisors counselled him not to interfere in the A.G.C. matter, and in the process left the poor miner to suffer a most cruel fate.
It is interesting that in spite of the so called advice not to interfere, Mr Kufuor threw his consultants' caution to the dogs and ruled in favour of Aglogold when it was realised Anglogold was being given a good run for her money by Rangold which kept coming up with higher and higher bids.
The realisation came to the workers in Ghana when they got wind of the fact that the workers of Siguiri in Guinea had uncovered the truth about the Anglogold Ashanti 'merger'. The Guinean workers went on strike and their president demanded a heavy compensation from Anglogold for his country and his countrymen who were working there. It is reported that Anglogold was forced to pay $3,000 to each mine-worker in Guinea, but who cares for the poor mine worker in Kufuor's Ghana?
In conclusion let us address the following questions to the attention of all whom they may concern- questions that require urgent answers needed by not only the impoverished and aggrieved workers of Obuasi but by all decent minded Ghanaians.
· Is it true that A.G.C. was sold and a chunk of the money was shared between Sam Jonah and Kufour?
· Is it true that when the Guinean revelation reached Ghana, Kufour quickly and frantically released about 40% of his booty to be secretly placed in the accounts of some big men so that they would keep quiet?
· Is it true that some heads at A.G.C. are likely to roll for not handling the matter professionally?
· Is it true that some of the big men think the junior staff can go to hell since in the event of the company's collapse they (beneficiaries) are now in resourced enough to establish their own companies with their booty?
· Is it true that Sam Jonah has vowed to punish the junior staff of A.G.C. for burying his effigy during the strike action?
· Is it true that $3,000 has been given to all the workers at Goldhouse?
· Is it true that the ILO Law demands that 6mths pay in addition toothercompensation packages be paid to workers like A.G.C. when there is a take-over?
· Is it true that that Anglogold was willing to abide by this international rule but Sam Jonah protested?
· Is it true that that Sam Jonah pleaded with President Kufour to see to it the Fast Track Court is scrapped quickly before he leaves office because Rawlings would use that to jail them if the NDC came back to power?
· Is it true that in the event of that not materialising Sam Jonah is making up his mind to naturalize as a South African should the NDC win power in 2004?
· Is it true that because of the above fear he decided that it would be better if the monies to be paid workers were rather channelled into campaigning in the villages because the vote of Obuasi alone could not bring about NPP's defeat in the 2004 election?
· Is it true that instead of asking for compensations for A.G.C. workers, President Kufour of Ghana took his share of the money and told Anglogold not to be worried because government would insist that the sell-out is a merger implying that workers do not deserve any compensation?
· Is it true that mineworkers are being warned not to attempt going on strike because that would serve the purposes of the Sam Jonah' to close down the mine and re-employ only a few people?