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SHAANXI EXPLOSION: ILLEGAL MINE BLAST KILLS 11 IN UPPER EAST

General News

In the latest instalment of the saga of illegal miners invading the turf of registered miners, at least 11 small-scale miners are feared dead and several mineworkers reportedly injured in a disaster that struck in the small hours of Wednesday at Gbane, a community in the eastern part of Talensi District in the Upper East Region.

In the latest instalment of the saga of illegal miners invading the turf of registered miners, at least 11 small-scale miners are feared dead and several mineworkers reportedly injured in a disaster that struck in the small hours of Wednesday at Gbane, a community in the eastern part of Talensi District in the Upper East Region.

 

Speaking to the media minutes after five bodies were pulled from a mining pit at the scene of the latest disaster, a grief-stricken eyewitness said two victims had been rushed to the Upper East Regional Hospital.

Another five bodies were later recovered from a tunnel.

Choked to death

The eyewitness said a routine explosive blast to open up the surface and create space in the earth to facilitate downward movement as the cause of the incident. He said poor standards and lack of best practice at the site where illegal miners were foraging for minerals were probably to blame.

“The incident happened around 3.10am before dawn today [Wednesday] after the Shaanxi people blasted their explosives. The small-scale miners were inside their pits when the Shaanxi people blasted and the smoke choked the miners.

“Two died at the regional hospital and one died at Datuko. Right now, five bodies are lying on the floor with foam coming out from their mouths and noses,” the eyewitness said.

He added: “As I speak to you, two people are also being rushed to hospital. They are very weak.”

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.

He wowed the association would not sit down and allow the mining company to have its way.

“We are going to organise a press conference tomorrow [Thursday January 24].

“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,” Mr Tampoare fumed.

PRO denies all

Meanwhile, Shaanxi Mining Ghana Ltd denied responsibility as mourners around the site of Wednesday’s calamity continued to count the casualties.

“They are not our staff. Most of these things happen at the blind side of our own operations,” Shaanxi’s public relations officer Maxwell Wooma said. “But because we are very close to them, they usually use us as a convenient alibi when these accidents occur.

“It’s in the course of their own operations that this has occurred. When we get to the hospital, we can establish who brought who, how many did the person bring, at what time and where were they working?”

Cassius fights

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 was presiding 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 in the background and uncovered 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 ask for their comments on secret visits to the residence of the region’s supervising high court judge and the meetings they had held with him.

Officials of the company were said initially to have denied paying visits to the judge.

But after the irrefutable findings were 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 company for the news organisation not to publish its findings.