A fatal mining explosion has struck at Gbani, a community in the Talensi District of the Upper East region, with as many as 7 people feared dead in the tragedy.
An endless chain of mining explosive deaths in the region has continued to spark public rage and concerns about the safety of mineworkers.
The latest explosion, the extent of which is not certain yet, is said to have occurred underground as some small-scale miners were scooping gold ore inside mining pits several feet deep. The mineworkers got trapped inside the dark tunnels after the ground over their heads reportedly collapsed as result of a shake that accompanied the explosion.
Eight of the miners, who were said to have been affected by the smoke from the explosives, were rushed to the Upper East Regional Hospital where two died shortly after arrival. Five reportedly passed on later with one said to be in critical condition and on referral to the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern region.
“In the morning, at the time I was leaving, I personally saw most of them. At the time I was leaving, two had passed on. Two of them were in stable state. Four of them were in quite critical state. We have called Tamale to refer them. Later on, there were reports that one or two passed away. That one I have not crosschecked. But I was around when two passed on,” the Medical Director at the hospital, Dr. Patrick Atobrah, told Starr News.
He explained further: “They were a total of 8. Two died immediately after they came. They said they were in a pit and they blasted. I think it caved in. They couldn’t come out. They inhaled the smoke from whatever explosive they blasted. Essentially, they were not physically injured; but they inhaled so much smoke. That was the problem. It affected their lungs.”
Those who blasted the explosive were many – survivor
A miner who survived the bang told Starr News from his hospital bed the explosion did not just occur. There were people behind it, he claimed.
“We were inside the pits working. Then, we heard the sound. The people who blasted it were many. But unfortunately we can’t identify them. We don’t know why they did that,” said an affected driller (name withheld).
The Upper East Regional Police Command has launched investigations into the disaster amid public shock and mourning in homes of the pitmen who died. Local miners in the community have pronounced the deadly blast as “the usual act” of the Chinese employees of the Shaanxi Mining Company Limited in the area, saying the explosive was targeted at the busy pits of rival mining groups. But the Public Relations Officer of the Chinese mining firm, Maxwell Wooma, has strongly denied any links between the company’s operational area and where the disaster struck.
A chain of 6 mining catastrophes since 2013
At least 16 small-scale miners were rushed from the same community to the same hospital in 2016 after inhaling what was suspected to be a poisonous gas from a mining explosive.
The 2016 misfortune was about the fifth disaster thus far recorded since May 2013. In April, 2015, two miners died and eight were critically injured from the gas of an explosive. Three miners lost their lives when a mining pit collapsed on them in October, 2014, in the area. On Wednesday April 2, that same year, two miners were gassed to death with one severely injured. May 26, 2013, saw three small-scale miners perish when a gas from an explosive engulfed their mining tunnel.
The Minerals Commission says it has visited the scene of the latest disaster to fetch the “full facts” of the development pending further actions.