Starr News has learnt of plans by an aggrieved group to stage a massive anti-Chinese demonstration at Gbani, a mining community in the Talensi District of the Upper East region.
The looming protest march, aimed at getting the Chinese mining expatriates to leave the area, is linked to the recent mining explosion said to have killed 7 mineworkers in the area. The men, said to be among some 50 unlicensed miners scooping gold ore inside a mining tunnel, came under a sudden attack from the toxic smoke of explosives discharged by persons yet to identified by the security agencies.
The group, which identifies itself as the Patriotic Members of the Gbani Community against Illegal Miners, is blaming the tragedy on the Chinese employees of the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited, a Chinese firm said to have been engaged by two local mining groups in the area, Yenyeya and Pubortaaba, to offer technical assistance.
This, according to the group, is because the Chinese, prior to the tragedy, had accused some “illegal miners” working for their local rivals of stealing their ore and allegedly had levelled threats to “deal with” any stranger found in their pits. Spokesperson to the group, John Yaro, told Starr News the upcoming anti-Chinese rally would be climaxed with presentation of a petition to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the government and the Minerals Commission among other key stakeholders.
“Even though we know they were illegal miners, you do not trap them and kill them,” Mr. Yaro fumed. “Even armed robbers, who go round, shoot and kill, police don’t kill them; they arrest them and even at times protect them. We do not approve of the illegality of the [men], but we don’t think any other person has the right to kill them.”
He added: “It may have been done unknowingly to the Chinese. But they would not have a way to defend because they have already reported to us that our people have been stealing and that they would deal with them. And we are getting these results now. Two of them (the deceased miners) come directly from my home. You have told us that they would see. Now, seven of them are dead.”
Community maintains death toll is 7
There are reports that only 5 of 8 miners admitted after the explosion were stretchered from the wards to the morgue at the Upper East Regional Hospital. They did not survive the damage done to their lungs and hearts by the smoke from the explosives. But grief-stricken residents in the mining neighbourhood, including the anti-Chinese group, have disputed the figure, pegging the death toll firmly at 7.
“One passed away at the emergency ward. Four of them died at the male ward. One died on the way to Tamale, exactly at Savelugu. When they got to Savelugu, the person died in the ambulance car. So, they brought the person back. That makes it six. One of those taken to Tamale also died in Tamale and they brought the person back. That is seven dead,” Mr. Yaro affirmed.
“The community is planning to wage a peaceful demonstration against the being of the Chinese in the community. We don’t need them. Whether they are in our area legally or illegally, we don’t need them here. We have the right to live with people we want. The traditional landowners are also not happy about the way the Chinese are living here. They are encroaching on the shrines within the jurisdiction,” the spokesperson for the group stressed.
About 800 youths, following the serial deaths of the miners involved in the weekend explosion, were said to have massed up Tuesday at a location within the area, poised to march peaceably to the premises of the Chinese miners to demand answers.
The proposed move was cancelled after a reported caution came from some elders in the community that the intended faceoff would only spark a regrettable clash and earn the area a bad name.
We are not responsible for the deaths- Shaanxi
The explosion occurred around a pit said to belong to neither the “illegal small-scale miners” nor the local companies that engaged the Chinese nationals.
Survivors are reported to have said even though the pit led to the mines occupied by the Chinese employees, they were content with the finds in that lone pit and did not intend to trespass to the area owned by the groups that employed the Chinese mining services.
Public Relations Officer of the Chinese mining firm, Maxwell Wooma, has told media houses across the country his outfit is not responsible for the disaster.
“What we are aware of is that, since our attention was drawn to this issue of the deaths of small-scale miners in the area, we have not recorded any mine accident within the Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited concession. Our blast men went underground, blasted and came out safe. We allow for smoke to emit for our underground labour to go down to do work. All our labour who worked underground for 8 hours came out safe and healthy. We have not recorded any accident within our mine.
“If there was any case of smoke, who would have been affected? It should be our blast people. It should have been our underground labour. If our labour go down to work and surface safely, how come that somebody in a foreign area would rather die instead of our own workers? We have said that anybody that comes out with the complaint that he was gassed up should be held and, then, they go with that person for the person to show the whole country where he was working- whether it was his concession, whether he’s licensed to work there, whatever materials he was using to work,” Mr. Wooma retorted.