Obuasi town in the western region of Ghana was once a hive of activity. Known as the golden city of Ghana, Obuasi has been reduced to a former shadow of itself. The gold rush that once existed is no more
Africa’s top gold producer, AngloGold Ashanti, closed shop two years ago and with it went jobs, the economy suffered and the ripple effects still echo to date.
“This town is becoming a ghost town and everything has come down so it’s up to the government for them to sit down the Anglo Ashanti to make sure that they bring this company back, otherwise there is no way that we can survive in this town,” said a Michael Mensah a business man.
Over reliance on commodities exports by African economies has seen growth in oil producing countries fall to an average of 2.9 percent last year from 5.4 percent in 2014.
Ghana ‘s experience illustrates the problem. A boom that relied on exports of gold, cocoa and oil saw five years of sustained GDP growth at around 8 percent and lifted Ghana to official ‘middle income’ status.
Back in Obuasi, the residents try eke out a living and by doing so illegal mining has gained root. The miners earn up to $2,600 on a good month. Despite the dangers associated with it, they are willing to gamble with their lives.
“It’s because we’re hungry, that’s why we do this work to enable us get our daily bread” said Fatau Tijani, a small scale miner.
AngloGold Ashanti blames Ghana’s government for failing to keep illegal miners away, but the government maintains that it is committed to protect all investments and citizens.
The company has sought arbitration at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington.However, the small scale artisanal miners say they have no where to go even as their exploits continue to halt commercial mining and deter potential investment.