Shaanxi Mining Company Ghana Limited, whose site at Talensi in the Upper East Region recorded the explosion that killed 16 people in January this year, has been fined $40,000 after it was found culpable for the accident.
The fine was imposed after investigations by the Inspectorate Division of the Minerals Commission found the company liable for various infractions that resulted in the accident at its mining enclave.
It has also been recommended that the foreman at the centre of the blast, Mr Asibi Seidu, be dismissed immediately for abandoning his post without permission.
The company was fined $10,000 for storing explosives underground without the approval of the Chief Inspector of Mines in violation of regulation 163 of Legislative Instrument (L.I.) 2177.
In addition, it was also fined $10,000 for failing to ensure that the safety code for blasting was approved by the Chief Inspector of Mines and another $10,000 for not recording the blasting that was undertaken on January 22, 2019 in the shift log book.
The company was further fined another $10,000 for appointing a supervisor who could not communicate to his patrol team in a language they could understand in line with Regulations 56(3) of L.I. 2182.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, who announced the sanctions at a press conference in Accra last Tuesday, said Yenyeya and Pubeortaaba mining groups had also been jointly fined $10,000 for not having blast time notices in the Gbane community where the companies operated their mining activities.
He said the report on the investigations also directed that a known miner in the Gbane community, Mr Kwasi Appiah, should be sanctioned severely for allowing his dug pit in his compound to be used by illegal miners to access the underground workings of Yenyeya and Pubortaaba which led to the fatalities.
“In addition, Mr Emmanuel Osman and Akurugu Vanga, who conducted blasting on Level Two on January 22, 2019, shall be suspended for three months without pay for failure to conduct proper risk assessment prior to the blasting in breach of Regulation 175 of L.I. 2177,” he said.
Throwing some light on the findings of the investigations by the Minerals Commission, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said the explosives used in the blast on January 22, 2019 that led to the accident had not been recorded in Shaanxi Mining’s explosives record book.
Besides, he said, the company’s safe-work procedure for blasting had not been endorsed by the Inspector of Mines as required by law.
“In addition, the company’s blast men did not conduct risk assessment prior to the blasting, while the foreman who was to supervise the blasting operations underground due to the absence of the substantive shift boss left the crew unceremoniously,” he said.
Among other things, the investigations revealed that Shaanxi, Yenyeya and Pubortaaba mining groups did not have blasting time notices posted in the Gbane community.
“Adequate warnings were not given before the blast went off, in clear breach of Regulation 193(e) of L.I. 2177.
There was also inadequate pre-blast inspection since some of the illegal miners were allegedly hiding underground, but the inspection team did not detect their presence,” he said.
As part of the recommendations by the investigators, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh gave a one-month ultimatum to the owners of Yenyeya and Pubotaaba mining groups to appoint competent persons to oversee the activities of the support service company, Shaanxi Ghana Mining Limited.
He also directed that all illegal mining pits in the Gbane community that linked the underground workings of Yenyeya and Pubortaaba should by closed immediately to forestall such accidents.
“All prospecting companies, namely Cassius Mining, Savannah Mining Ghana Limited, Shaanxi Mining and Mineral Processing Resources Ghana Limited, who were all given portfolios of the Gbane-Datoko de-blocked small scale mining areas, should be given a maximum of six months to complete all negotiations on transfer of licenses or any mining interests of small-scale miners,” he added.
He also directed that no small scale mining concession should be allowed to be within large scale mining concessions.
Mr Asomah-Cheremeh also asked Shaanxi Mining to immediately employ additional shift bosses and mine captains to supervise the activities of the company latest by April 30, 2019.
On January 23, 2019, 16 miners died following an explosion within the mining concession of Chinese company, Shaanxi Mining Limited.