* Thousands of illegal miners had invaded mothballed mine
* Operation may now be sold or mechanised (Adds details, quotes)
CAPE TOWN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Illegal miners have “largely been cleared” from AngloGold Ashanti’s Obuasi mine in Ghana and the company can now explore a number of options for the asset including its possible sale or redevelopment, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
The invasion of the loss-making, mothballed operation by thousands of illegal miners made the asset a toxic one that underscored the social and political risks of mining in west Africa.
“The military have done it without any injury or loss of life,” Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, who goes by the name Venkat, told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference.
Venkat said he had a constructive meeting in January with Ghana’s new President Nana Akufo-Addo and the company was in early talks with the government about the future of the loss-making mine, where operations were closed over two years ago.
Venkat said the company was now looking at three options: selling the mine or redeveloping it as a mechanised operation, with or without partners.
There have been other signs of renewal in the mining sector in Ghana. South Africa’s Gold Fields said in October that it would invest $1.4 billion to extend the life of its Damang mine in Ghana. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)