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Sun, Jun

GALAMSEY MINER DEATHS: MINERALS COMMISSION CUTS OFF SHAANXI

Business & Economy

The Minerals Commission has ordered Shaanxi Mining Ghana Ltd to suspend operations at its Gbane mine site in the Upper East Region with immediate effect.

The Minerals Commission has ordered Shaanxi Mining Ghana Ltd to suspend operations at its Gbane mine site in the Upper East Region with immediate effect.

The directive follows the deaths of 16 illegal miners, said to have invaded the mining company’s turf.

The miners’ deaths allegedly resulted from the detonation of explosives at the mine, in the Talensi District of the Upper East Region.

This is not the first time Shaanxi has been queried by the Minerals Commission.

Sanity

Following a spate of degradation of river bodies and forests as well as beachfronts and wildlife, especially under the last government, officials decided to freeze activities of small-scale miners.

It subsequently initiated sustainable policy frameworks to guide the activities of small-scale miners, thus paving the way for the ban to be lifted last month.

To sanitise the terrain, players were asked to register as companies which would operate legally under the new framework, applying best practice and sustainable strategies in maintaining the sanctity of the environment and natural resources.

This has largely restored sanity to the sector.

Investigations

A statement signed by the chief executive officer of the Minerals Commission, Kwaku Addae Antwi-Boasiako, said: “Management of Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited is directed to suspend all mining operations at Gbane with immediate effect until further notice.”

The directive is pending an investigation into the tragic events of Wednesday.

In August last year, the government, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, allowed management of the mining company to resume operations after a three-month suspension, occasioned by similar deaths.

John Peter Amewu, the then sector minister, ordered a halt to work by Shaanxi Mining Company to allow for investigations into the deaths of illegal miners alleged to have been trapped in the mine.

Wednesday’s blast

An eyewitness said a routine explosive blast to open up the surface and create space to facilitate downward movement was the cause of Wednesday’s tragic incident.

He said poor standards and lack of best practice at the site where illegal miners were scavenging for minerals were probably to blame.

“The incident happened around 3.10am before dawn today [Wednesday] after the Shaanxi people blasted their explosives,” he said.

“The small-scale miners were inside their pits when the Shaanxi people blasted, and the smoke choked the miners.”

Fight against Shaanxi

The acting Upper East regional chairman of the Ghana Small-Scale Miners Association, Robert Tampoare, later vowed “to stop Shaanxi Mining Company Ltd from killing our people”.

“It is so sad that I have been talking about this to the government, the Minerals Commission and the interministerial team about the dangerous works of Shaanxi, but the Tongo Rana [local traditional ruler] had said he is supporting the Shaanxi [because] they are doing a good job,” Mr Tampoare said.

“If the government and the Minerals Commission do not do something, we’ll not allow Shaanxi to continue to kill our people. We will go out to face Shaanxi. It is so sad,” the miners’ leader said.

Licence area

Last year, Shaanxi’s activities attracted a legal suit from another mining company, Cassius Mining Ltd, which accused it of encroaching on its concession.

The judge at the Bolgatanga high court who presided over the case, Justice Jacob B Boon, had to recuse himself because there were claims that Shaanxi officials had twice been spotted at his residence, ostensibly to influence him.

That was two weeks to the ruling on the case.

Cassius had complained that neighbouring Shaanxi had deliberately entered its licence area, sneaked underground and carted away tonnes of ore extracted from its goldfield.

Whilst the hearing was under way, Starr News carried out weeks of undercover monitoring of developments and discovered what could be an attempt to influence the judge’s decision during the visit to his residence.

Cover-up?

According to Starr News, two days before the judge was to give his ruling on the matter, its reporters established contact with Shaanxi officials to solicit their comments on secret visits to the judge’s home and the meetings they had held with him.

The officials were said initially to have denied paying visits to the judge.

But after irrefutable evidence was presented to them, Starr News reportedly received telephone calls from powerful figures linked to Shaanxi, pleading strongly on behalf of the judge and the Chinese-owned firm for the news organisation not to publish its findings.




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