A 31-year-old mineworker of the Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited was electrocuted early Tuesday morning while working for the company.
Paul Agbango was killed around 4:00 a.m. Tuesday while he was working underground for a chinese mine in Upper East, witnesses told The Fourth Estate.
The Chinese mine apologised to the family Tuesday afternoon for the death of their relative in the gold-mining district in the Upper East Region.
It is the latest expression of regret in a growing string of apologies rendered over mining-related injuries and deaths recorded since 2008 when the Chinese-owned company, formerly known as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, arrived in the district.
Before the 31-year-old mineworker joined the company on November 5, 2020, as a gathering-arm operator, 16 people had lost their lives in the mine in 2019.
“It’s so sad,” the company’s spokesperson, Ebenezer Bognaab, told The Fourth Estate as the miner’s body was being transported to the mortuary at the Upper East Regional Hospital. “We just have to empathise with the family of the deceased and allow for investigations to happen.”
He continued: “It’s unfortunate that we had to record an incident of electric shock. We are very sorry, and we empathise with the family.”
How a worker at a Chinese mine in Upper East died
A gathering arm is a tractor-like machine used for loading loose stones or gold ore.
Agbango, a native of mineral-rich Zongoyire in the Bawku West District, was electrocuted while he was using a gathering arm, per the details The Fourth Estate gathered from the mining company’s spokesperson.
“He was on a night shift. He was assigned to a working phase as usual. He had almost finished his work and was reversing to clear the muck (broken ore). In the process of reversing, the machine accidentally cut off an electric cable, exposing the cable.
“The cable got into contact with the electrified machine (the gathering arm). And that was how he got electrocuted. We have formally informed the police. The police [are] escorting the body to the mortuary. We will proceed to inform the Minerals Commission,” Mr. Bognaab explained.
Mining in Upper East: Safety Concerns
There is a lot of gold in the belly of the earth in the district. But there is very little to show for it above the ground in terms of infrastructure.
There is only one tarred road in the entire district. While some schools in the area grapple with the shortage of furniture worried stakeholders are keenly keeping their eyes on the safety of mineworkers in the district.
Their safety concerns are rooted in a history of mine accidents that have taken breadwinners away from their families.
On May 26, 2013, gas from explosives in the mine killed three small-scale miners.
On April 2 the following year, two miners died from gas poisoining and one person was critically injured.
In October 2014, three mineworkers were pulled out dead from a collapsed pit.
In April 2015, two miners died and 8 people got injured from an explosion occasioned by the Chinese company.
The following year saw 16 miners were rushed to the Upper East Regional Hospital after they inhaled a toxic gas from a mining explosive.
In 2017, seven miners were trapped and killed many feet below ground while scooping gold ore.
Two years later, the worst disaster happened, when 16 miners were killed. Each of them frothed at the mouth after the Chinese blasted an explosive. The Minerals Commission shut down the company temporarily in the aftermath of the disaster.
Members of the area say the Chinese company has killed more than 60 people since its arrival in Talensi more than a decade ago, a number the company has repeatedly refuted.
Another Safety Assurance
When The Fourth Estate contacted the Minerals Commission Tuesday afternoon on the latest tragedy, the mining officer in charge of the district, Dickson Achindiba, said he had not been informed about it.
Agbango’s death is similar to how a Ghanaian-born Shaanxi employee died in October 2018. The miner, whose name was mentioned only as Baarn, was crushed to death underground by a huge metal-made bucket.
The company’s spokesperson at the time, Maxwell Wooma, assured the public that more measures would be put in place to ensure that workers at the mine were safe.
“You would recall that for the past three years, the mine has been safe,” Bognaab said. “Since 11th December 2019, we have not recorded a fatality. We have kept the mine so safe. Conditions of workers have improved.”
He assured: “This is one of the unfortunate incidents that we have recorded. As a mine, we will revisit our safety procedure to make sure that incidents of this nature are completely avoided.”
Looking back at history, some residents in the region feel a tragedy may strike again in the mine in the future. But they are not sure which family would receive the next apology from the company.
Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Police Command has confirmed the incident and said the case is being investigated by the Talensi District Police.