The social and economic context in which AngloGold Ashanti operates in some regions of the world requires an approach to security management which not only ensures that the company’s assets and employees are protected but also that the surrounding communities are not put at risk from any safety hazards which may arise from our operations. The company is subject to significant security threats, be it from illegal mining activity or from other criminal activity such as theft, but has focused on implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the voluntary principles) in order to ensure that the security measures taken by the company do not infringe the fundamental rights and freedoms of any individual.
The need for armed security guards to protect our people, property and assets has unfortunately risen over the last couple of years at several of AngloGold Ashanti’s operations, as a result of an increased number of violent attacks on security staff by armed criminals. Geita Mine is an example of an operation where legislation allows security guards to be armed for the purpose of protection. Guards must undergo proficiency and competency training in the use of firearms before being issued with a firearm. Hand in hand with this approach, community engagement efforts have focused on a community-based approach to security management, in which the risks of entering active mining areas are discussed, in order to prevent community members from putting themselves at risk.
Although this training covers applicable legislation and the use of force principles, it became evident during 2008 that guards were discharging firearms frequently. The discharges were mostly warning shots but in some cases resulted in injuries to those people involved in illegal activities. It became apparent towards the end of 2008 that the amount of warning shots fired to scare off intruders was excessive and it was clear that a serious shooting incident would occur if the issue was not addressed. At this point, a management decision had already been made to fast-track voluntary principles training at Geita for all security staff, to complement firearm training already in place.
Voluntary principles training started at Geita in November 2008, but regrettably a serious shooting incident on the night of 31 January 2009 occurred, which resulted in the fatal shooting of two suspected intruders at Geita Airport.
The incident prompted a rapid review of procedures, with specific emphasis on the use of force and rules of engagement. A reassessment of the competency of all armed guards was also undertaken. The need for further voluntary principles training, ensuring a clear understanding of the principles and their relation to the use of force, rules of engagement and the respect for human rights was identified and immediately implemented.
“The introduction of voluntary principles training at Geita had an immediate and significant positive impact,” says Brian Gonsalves, the manager responsible for Africa within the global security team.
Within one year there was an 82% reduction in the discharge of firearms, from 882 discharges in 2008 to 159 discharges for 2009. There were two more shooting incidents in the latter part of 2009, resulting in minor injuries to intruders. In both cases, however, investigations conducted jointly by police and mine security revealed that the guards in question acted within their mandate as their lives had been in danger.
Brian believes that implementation of the voluntary principles will make a difference in security management at operations such as Geita. “The results achieved at Geita since January 2009 have shown that changing our approach to managing security at our operations, coupled with implementation of the voluntary principles through continuous training, can lead to a significant reduction in security incidents. Implementation of the voluntary principles will foster a culture where reputational risk is substantially reduced, as every discharge of a firearm, whether a warning shot or not, has to be properly investigated and recorded, to ensure that the use of force and rules of engagement principles were applied”.