(LONDON) — Several artisanal miners are feared trapped in an underground gold mine shaft in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
Several illegal miners have reportedly entered AngloGold Ltd.’s Obuasi Mines in the Anwiam, Ashanti Region, searching for gold deposits. However, the miners found themselves unable to exit after the entrances were shut, officials said.
AngloGold Ashanti Ghana told ABC News it is aware of reports alleging that illegal miners may have been trapped in the northern areas of its mine.
“Obuasi Gold Mine’s management team has notified the relevant authorities and public security services and is working closely with them,” a statement from the company said.
Several illegal miners are reported to have been in the mine, according to local reports, with devastated family members of the miners telling local media that they have been unable to reach them for four days.
AngloGold tells ABC that seven illegal miners have thus far exited the mine and are currently in the custody of the Ghana Police Service.
“Intrusion of illegal miners into underground areas remains a significantly dangerous activity and AngloGold Ashanti Ghana is working alongside authorities to ensure that only authorized personnel and contractors can access underground work areas,” the company said in a statement.
AngloGold has denied any of the illegal miners are trapped or “confined in any way,” saying the main exit ramp — where security and police remain — is open.
“Unauthorised persons underground are able to exit on foot, via the existing ramp, through the main access of this mining area,” AngloGold’s statement said.
AngloGold Ltd. Is the world’s fourth-largest gold producer. According to AngloGold, its Obuasi underground mine operation runs to a depth of 1,500 meters at its deepest point. It has produced 250koz of gold, with a workforce of 4,403 people, including contractors.
Studies have found that rising unemployment coupled with the lucrativeness of mining has led to an upsurge in miners, many of whom operate illegally as a means to earn a living. Gold mining is a lucrative revenue source for corporations and small-scale and artisanal miners alike. The artisanal and small-scale mining sector is estimated to employ up to 1 million people in Ghana.
According to Ghana’s Minerals and Mining Act, persons partaking in small-scale mining are required to obtain a license, however regulation of small-scale mining in Africa’s top gold-producing nation has been mostly unsuccessful, with research finding that over 85% of small-scale mining still occurs illegally. Poor regulation has also led to the occurrence of human rights violations in Ghana’s artisanal and small-scale mining trade such as child labor, according to the Human Rights Watch.
“Intrusion of illegal miners into underground areas remains a significantly dangerous activity and AngloGold Ashanti Ghana is working alongside authorities to ensure that only authorized mine personnel and contractors can access underground work areas,” AngloGold told ABC News.
ABC News reached out to Ghana’s Mineral Commission, who confirmed that incident was ongoing, but declined to comment further.
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