Kefi Mineral's Plc, a UK gold exploration and development company, involved in gold mining development project located in West Wellega Zone, Tullu Kepi woreda has been attacked by an armed group, The Reporter has learnt.
Kefi, engaged in explorations in the area, was attacked by six armed people on Sunday morning (around 6am), on May 26, 2019. The attackers were equipped with guns and went into the companies' premises when most of the workers were not there. At the time, they were attending church prayers.
"There was a burglary at our exploration site and the attackers have also destroyed one small shed used to store exploration equipment," said Harry Anagnostaras, Executive Chairman of Kefi, in an emailed response to The Reporter.
"The armed men have taken GPS equipments as well as a microscope which we find a bit mysterious," said Harry over the phone from London.
Kefi Minerals got its mining license in the area back in 2015.
"The Tulu Kapi Mining Agreement between the Ethiopian Government and KEFI gave the company a 20-year mining License, with a 5 percent Government free-carried interest and full permits for the development and operation of Tulu Kapi," according to the company's website.
Moreover, Tulu Kapi Gold Mines S.C is owned 55 percent by Ethiopians, whereas the rest 45 percent belongs to mining specialists from the UK. The GoldOre Reserve is estimated to be at 1.05 million ounces and Mineral Resources totaling 1.72 million ounces of gold.
"There have been a few incidents of burglary and small property destruction in the general area over the past year, but this is the first time we have had a burglary," said Harry.
The armed men, after attacking the site, forced a company car to drive them ten kilometers away from the mining site.
"The attack was a bit of a shock for us and for the community in the area," said Harry. "We were told that the attackers are not from the area," he added.
Following the attack, members of Oromia regional and federal police were deployed to the locality.
"We are thankful to the local community," said the Chairman adding, "It is however, a wake up call for us to increase our security in the field."
The gold deposit in Tulu Kapi was discovered by an Italian consortium back in the 1930's. The company has mined the area on a small scale level.
However, this is not the first time where such investments were attacked by armed men operating in the area. Back in March, 2019, five miners in Nejo, West Wellega were ambushed and killed by armed men. The attack also claimed the lives of two foreigners from Japan and India.Given the circumstance of the attack, where the miners were shoot while they were driving their car and then set on fire; it was challenging for authorities to identify the bodies of the deceased.
The miners were working at a Gold Mining Company called Sunrays Mining Plc. Repeated attempted to solicit comments from the Oromia Regional State Communication Bureau Head, AdmasuDamtew, were unsuccessful.