We learnt nothing from Appiatse explosion
Last Sunday’s explosion at a quarry at Kobenandokrom in the Shama District in the Western Region that killed four people is a testament that as a nation, we have not learnt lessons from the deadly explosion that killed about 17 people at Appiatse in the same region last year.
It also shows that the nation is yet to devise workable and implementable safety protocols on the use of explosives since a similar quarry explosion at Piabo near Nsawam in 2015 killed one person and destroyed many buildings.
The people killed at Kobenandokrom were burnt beyond recognition, while others, including the managing director (MD) of the company behind the quarry, are still missing.
A fuel station and the only health post in the area were not spared as the blast caused extensive damage to countless structures and compromised the structural integrity of many buildings.
It was in January last year that the entire community of Appiatse was wiped out by a massive explosion caused by 10 tonnes of dynamites being transported to a mining site at Bogoso.
Apart from the 17 confirmed deaths, more than 480 people were reported to have suffered varying degrees of injury.
The Appiatse explosion destroyed a lot.
People lost their lives, loved ones, property, livelihoods and a sense of belonging.
It led to a massive nationwide effort, spearheaded by the Appiatse Support Fund, to help rebuild the town.
An investigative committee was formed which supposedly made far-reaching recommendations on how to strengthen the safety protocols in the handling of explosives for industrial purposes.
About a-year-and-half down the line, it is unacceptable for the explosion at Kobenandokrom to have happened, and certainly an indictment on the authorities in charge of such issues.
The Minerals Commission issued a statement that the quarry had no licence and was, therefore, operating illegally.
In the statement, the commission said its preliminary investigations confirmed that the site of the explosion was a subject of an application by a company with the name STA Addsams Enterprise.
The commission further said mine inspectors realised that the company was working at night ostensibly to prevent them from being noticed by the inspectors of the commission and the local task force comprising the police and members of the sand winners and quarry association.
However, the statement by the commission leaves more questions than answers.
How a quarry that operates in the open, with all the associated noise, can operate illegally without anyone noticing and questioning its operation is something we cannot fathom.
Where was the regulator, the Shama District Assembly and other agencies of government when this company was operating in the full glare of the public without a licence?
The fact that it was supposedly a foreign company also highlights the lapses in our regulatory framework and the space we give to people, including foreigners, to continue to commit an act of impunity with total disregard for our laws.
Ghana has many laws meant to properly regulate the mining industry and prevent such explosions.
In fact, due to its potential harmful impact on society, every aspect of the mining industry has a specific law regulating its activities.
Apart from the main law – the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), other laws include Minerals & Mining (Health, Safety and Technical) Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2182), which deal with general safety regarding the sector and the Minerals & Mining (Explosives) Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2177), which gives extensive regulations on the use, storage, transportation and disposal of explosives for the mining sector.
The Daily Graphic calls on the commission and other regulatory bodies to implement to the letter the safety protocols regarding explosives as enshrined in L.I 2177.
To serve as a deterrent, it is important that people whose negligence leads to such tragic loss of lives are made to pay for their actions, with criminal prosecution part of the options.
Those to face the law should not only be industry players, but regulatory parties whose inaction fester such tragedies.
As a country, we must also reform our tort system to ensure that companies, industry players and regulatory bodies whose actions and inaction result in such tragic incidents pay dearly in terms of civil liabilities.
Such negligence should not be countenanced.
People who have lost their loved ones and those who have suffered injuries and lost their source of livelihoods must be supported to initiate such civil actions, and the courts must impose the maximum liabilities in tandem with the law.