Benishangul Gumuz region establishes a committee to undertake a process to clear the mining area of Kurmuk Gold Mine (KGM), a large scale mine, from illegally settled artisanal miners, who occupied the area following the declaration of huge amounts of the precious metal at KGM’s mining and exploration license area.
During the latest high level delegation led by Takele Uma, Minister of Mines, Fitsum Assefa, Minister of Planning and Development, Demelash Gebremichael, Commissioner-general of the Federal Police Commission, Ashadli Hassan, President of Benishangul Gumuz region, Debele Kabeta, Commissioner of Customs Commission, Million Mathewos, State Minister of Mines, and others central and regional government officials paid a visit on Monday January 9 to the company mining site 750 km west of Addis Ababa at Kurmuk Wereda of Assosa Zone.
Following the visit, a subsequent meeting was held at the regional President Office in Assosa to evaluate the challenges that the company faces on matters production as per the time frame set by the central government.
On its presentation paper, the company indicated that due to a significant presence of a number of illegal miners carrying out hard rock mining using mercury within the mining license and exploration license area, it has become difficult to conduct any development and exploration activities.
In his presentation, Brox Worku, General Manager of KGM, said that the company was supposed to start production within two years as per the license approved by the Council of Minister about a year ago.
“We have so far spent USD 80 million for the procurement of machines and other relevant expenses to start the blasting and planning of the mining machine. However, due to the invasion of illegal and artisanal miners, who are neither from the locality nor aligned to the site, the operation has been hampered,” Brox explained the current predicament of the company.
He explained that active presence of artisanal and illegal miners within the mining and exploration area has impacted the project by delaying the start of development activities in addition to security and safety treats at the site.
“As per our plan the processing plant is bound to be erected in a short time, but prior to that at least for the coming one year, mining should be conducted since the resource will be fed to the processing plant to produce the gold,” he said, adding, “based on the projection, the company is set to start blasting within the coming five months to start the mining. However as per international law and our principle, we could not carry out the blasting since there is presence of artisanal at the site.”
“We need swift involvement from the regional administration and central government,” he underlined.
He cited that the illegal miners were not at the site about year ago, “What is the difficulty level of relocating or moving the illegal miners from the site? As a company we need a clear line about the issue.”
As per the plan, the company will produce nine tons of gold per annum for two decades and also targets to increase the volume to up to 11 tons in the coming one and half years since commencement of production.
During the visit, the presence of illegal miners was heavily observed. Some eye witnesses that Capital interviewed at the location said that foreigners’ particularly Chinese citizens were working with the illegal miners.
The presentation document indicated that illegal miners useSudanese nationals who use mercury, and Chinese who use sodium cyanide to extract gold.
He recommended that in the near future KGM will focus on the 100 km square mining license area, “So that this new coming artisanal can carry out their activity in the other location that is also under KGM’s exploration license areas but which also has gold deposits.”
He reminded that the company has already transported pilot gold processing machine for artisanal miners at the locality at a cost of one million USD with the installation set to consume USD 200,000.
“The pilot machine shall accommodate all local artisanal,” Brox told Capital.
He said that there are also physical attacks to his employees and vandalism at the camp site is rampant, “we need arms for our security personnel to keep the safe.”
The Federal Police Commissioner General during the meeting expressed commitment to offer support for the security issues and arms.
Demelash also recommended the regional administration in collaboration with federal security apparatus to organize a security body from retired military personnel coming from the region.
Takele said that if the company commences operation it would be a good advantage for the sector, the region and country in general since it is a large scale mining business with a capacity of producing the amount currently produced.
He reminded that the Council of Ministers had approved the mining license through understanding that the company should commence production in two years, “but if everything is smooth and the company delays to keep its commitment we will have to revoke its license.”
“However this kind of illegal issues would be a leverage to mention as a reason for the delay, so we have to solve the problems and push the miners to get in to activity,” Takele added.
He expressed his expectation that the regional administration would play its part to solve the problem as a body that has a mandate to alleviate such kind of problems.
“Problems that would be solved at the central government level would be solved by the federal government,” he elaborated
Ashadli said that the illegal activity has to be corrected since the project has significant advantage for the country.
“The mining site is officially transferred to KGM so it is not acceptable to allow others to enter at the licensed area,” he said.
At the meeting he also declared the formation of a committee comprising of Assosa Zone and Kurmuk Woreda heads, security advisor of the regional president, Deputy Police Commissioner of the region, and the regional Mines Bureau.
“This committee will undertake a detail execution process and make sure the relocation of illegal miners as soon as possible from the licensed area of the company,” he added.
An association of artisans will also be established to use the pilot machine that the company handed over for the Woreda.
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