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Editorial | Feb 12, 2017

Getting Obuasi mines working again

By Ghanaian Chronicle
Getting Obuasi mines working again

When AngloGold Ashanti suspended gold mining operations in Obuasi in 2016, it led to a loss of 5,700 jobs, and the virtual collapse of the town as an economic entity. Since the first gold was brought out of the shafts in 1897, Obuasi has become synonymous with gold mining, which, in turn, has dictated economic activities in the town and its environs ever since.

The decision to suspend operations, according to the Managing Director of AngloGold Ashanti, Mr. Kwesi Enyan, was influenced by low profitability, inability to address local and environmental issues, problems with community engagements, and the encroachment of company reserves by illegal miners, known in local parlance as galamsey.

Mining was initially suspended in 2014, throwing 5,000 miners out of jobs in 2014. But, when the problem worsened, the entire workforce was laid off. Since then, Obuasi has been slipping gradually into oblivion.  At the moment, Obuasi is virtually a ghost town.

Ashgold, the football club sponsored by AngloGold Ashanti which won the Ghanaian premier league two years ago, failed woefully to compete last year, and only managed to skip relegation by the skin of its teeth.  The gold mine, which is the supply line for resources for the former Ghana champions, and the town generally, is gradually drying up. There are genuine fears that if something drastic is not done about the situation early, Obuasi may slip into oblivion.

On Wednesday, concerned chiefs and opinion leaders, led by the Adansihene, Apagyakotwere Bonsra Afriyie II, took the matter to the seat of Government in Accra, and got the sympathetic ear of the President. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo promised government support towards getting the Obuasi mine re-opened.

The Head of State assured Nananom that whatever problem that had militated against the smooth operation of the world's richest gold single mine, would be rectified to get the mines working again.

He spoke of the interest of Randgold Resources, a British mining conglomerate, expressing interest in taking over and operating the Obuasi concessions. According to the President of Ghana, the Chief Executive of Randgold, Mark Bristow, had promised to submit a proposal on the redevelopment of the mine to the government for further discussion.

The Chronicle is delighted with the new development.  We have never been amused that the situation had been allowed to so deteriorate that the rich Obuasi mines have all been closed down all this while. We recall, with a tinge of sadness, the circumstances leading to the demise of the former Communications Director of AngloGold. Mr. John Owusu died chasing galamsey operators on AngloGold concessions exactly one year ago. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

There are several reasons leading to the sorry sight at Obuasi. Of the lot, the most repugnant is when, in the name of politics, illegal miners were encouraged to take over AngloGold operations.

It is important to recall that Obuasi has always had a military garrison that frightened illegal miners away. Suddenly, in February last year, without any reason, the garrison was sent away on the orders of the government of the day, leading to an influx of illegal miners, who brazenly took over pits belonging to the mining conglomerate.

In reviving mining at Obuasi, the main consideration should be economic. Once the mine is working, the economic fortunes of the town will improve. We hope and pray that the negotiations to get the mine back to work would not take too long to work out.

As the famous Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, once wrote: When a handshake goes beyond the elbow, it becomes something else.

Obuasi is crying for help. We hope and pray that this administration would make it possible for things to happen in the shortest possible time. Obuasi must work again


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