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Illegal Miners, popularly known as galamsey, have reportedly taken advantage of the withdrawal of the military and have invaded the concession of Asanko Gold Mines in the Amansie district of Ashanti region and are doing illegal mining.
This was made known when the Ashanti Regional Minister,Mr. Simon Osei-Mensah visited the mines, which government has ten per cent shares in.
The Ashanti region, especially Amansie enclave, which is made up of Amansie West,East and Central have been inundated with illegal miners, who are polluting the water bodies in the area.
Addressing the media after appreciating the extent of devastation caused by the galamseyers, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah noted that the illegal miners apart from invading the concession of the legitimate mining company also possess offensive weapons, which they use to intimidate security guards.
"They are wielding pump actions guns,pistols,e.t.c. and as we speak the security within the mining enclave of the company are not allowed to carry weapons; sothey will always have to run away for their dear lives, because you cannot use empty hands to face people who are wielding weapons," he said.
The worried minister told the media that the situation is becoming precarious and that the magnitude of the encroachment is very serious.
"You all realise that when we went there and they saw us, they did not even run away. They were just looking at us, some of them carrying out their duties as if the place is theirs. "If people within communities are interested and engaging in mining activities, it is either they go for legal small scale mining license and operate within the conditions and terms of the license or they approach their District Chief Executive who will work in collaboration with the Member of Parliament and the Regional Coordinating Council to ensure that they are enrolled in the community mining project; but we do not want people to take the law into their own hands and enter legal concessions and operate with impunity".
He vowed that his administration, which represents the president in the region, would not allow the illegality and continuous degradation of the environment.
"The President has put his presidency on the line and if we allow this illegality to happen it simply implies that we are also putting our presidency on the line. I think the president will first have to crack the whip and we have to go first before he goes.We want to be part of the success story of the president,that we eradicated galamsey from Ghana and made sure our water bodies came back to life".
On the relocation of residents from the old settlement to the new settlementby the mining company, the Ashanti regional minister regretted comments made by some of the beneficiaries when they see visitors around.
"You will have sympathy for them, but when you come to the ground, you would ask why the people are crying. I think you are all witnesses,we just drove through the old community.Compare that old community to where they have been settled now. Look at the type of structures that we have there, as compared to the dilapidated old settlement.
"The mining company has provided accommodation for them, which is twice what they have at the old community.I am grateful to the over 80 percent of the community people who have moved to the new settlement and I am pleading with the remaining 20 percent to join their leaders."
Nana Amaoko, the Health, Safety and Security Manager,Asanko Gold Mine, on his part said his outfit is a large scale mining, operating for the past five years after meeting all legal obligations to the government.
According to him, they started facing some challenges or difficulties when themilitary personnel providing security by Executive Instrument were all withdrawn from site. He indicatedthat the galamseyers have actually encroached on their legally acquired lands, a situation he indicated wasimpacting on their business.
Nana Amoako pointed out that anytime they attempt to drive away the illegal miners from the concession, the host communities would demonstrate against them.
"We are, therefore, appealing to the government to, as soon as possible, come to our aid and get these galamseyers out from our site. We are appealing to government to come to our aid to ensure the safety of our employees and equipment.
"We are appealing to the government to come to our aid to protect the mineral resources and whatever property we have so that we can go about our business peacefully", he pleaded.
The Health, Safety and Security Manager also noted that the illegal miners have destroyed water bodies in the area, in addition to destroying the environment.
"They are also just digging anywhere, which is affecting our environmental bond that we have with the EPA. On the production side, they are mining ahead of us and they have taken the ounces that we have projected to mine and thereby shortening the life of mine that we have".
Asanko Gold Mine is a joint venture with Gold Fields Ltd (JSE, NYSE: GFI).
Galiano and Gold Fields both have a 45% economic interest in the mine, with the Government of Ghana holding the remaining 10%. Galiano is the manager and operator.
The Asanko Gold Mine is a multi-deposit complex with two main deposits, Nkran and Esaase, and multiple satellite deposits, situated on the Asankrangwa Gold Belt and a 5Mtpa carbon-in-leach (CIL) processing plant. Gold production commenced in January 2016 and commercial production was declared on April 1, 2016.
In 2019, the mine exceeded the upper-end of guidance with record gold production of 251,044 ounces.
In 2020 the mine was targeting approximately 245,000 ounces of gold production, in sustaining costs of approximately $1,150/oz (100% basis).
Approximately 2,600 people are employed at the mine and 99% of the total workforce are Ghanaians, of which around 53% are from the local communities.