There were tense moments in Obuasi on Tuesday, May 20, 2023, when some 48 illegal miners who entered an AngloGold Ashanti shaft to search for the precious ore were arrested by the police.
An unspecified number of other illegal miners remained underground because of fear of being arrested at the exit point of the shaft where armed police and military personnel had been deployed.
Scores of people mostly the youth besieged the Municipal Assembly premises at Obuasi demanding the authorities order the release of those arrested.
The enraged youth dented a vehicle that was transporting some of the arrested illegal miners to the police station.
The joint police and military team had to come in forcefully to control the rampaging crowd.
They fired gunshots to disperse some of the youth who had moved to the Obuasi District Police Command to demand the release of the illegal miners. The youth also burnt car tyres close to the police command.
AngloGold Ashanti is determined to ensure the arrest of all the other illegal miners still holed up in the shaft.
The company, in a statement on Tuesday, refuted reports that the illegal miners were trapped in the company’s shaft, explaining that there is an exit point from where they could come out on foot.
“Unauthorized persons underground are able to exit on foot, via the existing ramp, through the main access of this mining area. No person underground has been confined in any way and the main exit ramp from the mine remains open.
“Obuasi Gold Mine’s management team has notified the relevant authorities and public security services and is working closely with them.”
One of the illegal miners, Ali Tijani who spoke to Citi News said some of his colleagues were unconscious as they had run out of food and water.
“We went to the AngloGold mine to work, but the place was closed down. For four days now, we are just in there. We don’t have any food or water. And they do not want to give us water. We are about 300. We went there on our own,‘ he told the radio station.
The statement said on Monday, May 19, 2023, seven illegal miners who exited through the main access point on foot were arrested and were in the custody of the police.
The company encouraged any unauthorized person underground to leave the mine at any time by the exit points where public security personnel remained, on standby.
The statement further noted that the intrusion of illegal miners into underground areas had reminded a significantly dangerous activity.
As a result, AngloGold Ashanti had been working alongside other authorities to ensure that only authorized mine personnel and contractors could underground work areas.
“The safety and security of our employees and community members remain our top priority and AngloGold Ashanti Ghana stands ready to provide any assistance required by the authorities in ensuring the safe exit of any unauthorized persons,” the statement concluded.