FORTY illegal miners narrowly escaped death last Tuesday after security personnel attempted to seal off one of the abandoned pits of Anglogold Ashanti in which they were operating.
The security personnel had started sealing off the pit when word reached them that some illegal miners, popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’ operators, were inside digging for gold.
The Public Relations Officer of the Obuasi Mines of Anglogold Ashanti, Mr Sarpong Boateng, confirmed this to the Daily Graphic and explained to this paper that it was not a deliberate decision to bury the galamsey operators alive.
According to him, as part of the normal operations against galamsey operations, the security team went round the abandoned Sanso mines for inspection.
On the detection that one of the pits had been tampered with, the security personnel attempted to seal it, without knowing that the illegal miners were inside it.
He stated that one of the miners came out and was arrested while the 39 others remained inside, fearing they would be arrested when they surfaced.
For more than one hour the illegal miners holed themselves up in the pit in spite of calls to them to come out.
Mr Boateng expressed concern about the activities of the galamsey operators in the concessions, stressing that the company was making every effort to get them off the concessions.
He said as part of the efforts, the company had set up income-generation ventures like piggery and citrus farms for illegal miners who wanted to quit the business.
Mr Boateng said Anglogold Ashanti had also moved to organise the illegal miners as a group with the view to looking for mining concessions outside the company’s own for them.
One Mohammed Abubakari, who said he was the chairman of the small-scale mining group at Obuasi, also told the Daily Graphic that he led those who informed the security personnel about the presence of his colleagues in the pit.
He indicated that but for their intervention, the miners would have been buried alive in the pit.
Mr Abubakari said some of his people used flashlights to search through the pit to find out that no one was inside before it was finally sealed.