Mining giant Newmont Ghana Limited has indefinitely suspended mining activities at all its sites in the country as investigations into the death of six of the firm’s subcontractor staff takes shape.
Six persons, all contractor employees of the construction services company, Consar Limited, died when the roof of a reclaim tunnel at the Ahafo Mill Expansion project, which is under construction, collapsed on them Saturday.
Two others who were with the six, escaped with minor injuries. They have since been treated and discharged.
The bodies of the six have since Sunday morning been retrieved from the tunnel, TV3’s Kwabena Adu-Gyamfi who is at the site at Kenyasi in the Brong Ahafo region reported.
Newmont, which commenced operation in Ghana in 2006 currently, operates two main mining sites at Akyem and Ahafo in the Eastern and Brong Ahafo regions respectively.
Following the Saturday freak accident, the company ceased mining operations at the Ahafo site in solidarity with the victims and their families as well as colleagues.
But at a meeting with the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources who visited the scene of the accident, acting Mines Manager at the Ahafo Mines, Okyere Yaw Ntram revealed the Akyem mine has also suspended operations.
“Our sister company in Akyem have also stopped operations. They suspended operation in solidarity with us until we resume back to work when the place is safe,” he told the Minister.
Though the suspension could potentially affect the production of the company and its revenue, Mr. Ntram told journalists “money is not of the essence now” as the company is focusing on empathising with the families and the employees.
“I think at this stage the important thing is to empathise with the deceased and their family and the communities and the employees that worked close with them,” he added.
What caused the accident?
The cause of the accident is yet to be established but it is suspected to be the result of a structural defect.
Fresh concrete that was being cast on the roof of the tunnel collapsed on the eight-member crew working in the tunnel at the time, thus trapping them in the process.
Initial attempts by some other workers around to rescue them from the mortar proved futile “due to the extremely large quantity of the mixture”, one of our correspondents reported.
John Peter Amewu, minister for Lands and Natural Resources who visited the scene Sunday morning blamed the accident on a “complete structural failure”
Though he said investigations are ongoing, he said, “It is clear that the props that support the slabs probably might not be well placed and that could trigger… the surface slab to cave in; over 1000 cubic metres of concrete”.
Meanwhile, the Minerals Commission has been commissioned to lead the investigations into the accident.
It will have about two weeks to present its findings on the accident.
The accident scene has been taken over by the Minerals Commission , which is expected to among other things, establish what really happened and whether there were any breaches of safety regulations.
The investigative team is also expected to go into the structural design of the facility which collapsed to establish whether the roof was designed to take the about 1000 cubic metres of concrete.
Any sanctions against Newmont?
Mr. Amewu noted it was early to be talking about sanctions against the mining firm, which he said, is one of the mining companies in the country that is very concerned about high safety measures.
However, he said, “If negligence are detected, the law is there, and the law would have to be applied.”
“From what we are hearing if it is true that they asked workers to go beneath to find out what is happening because they detected that some structural unsoundness happened so the workers had to come down. If that is true, then actually something wrong might have happened” he said but added he wouldn’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the investigations.