Another Shaanxi Explosion in Talensi: Casualties as police lock blast-man in cells

The Talensi District Police Station.

An underground explosion claimed one life and saw two mineworkers injured Wednesday night inside Shaanxi Mining Company Limited’s goldmine in Talensi, a district in Ghana’s Upper East region.

Relatives of Emmanuel Asante, the Shaanxi worker who died in the explosion, are on their way from the Eastern region to Upper East to verify at first hand the story told to them on the telephone by the Chinese company concerning Asante’s death.

The company, now known as Earl International Group (Ghana) Gold Limited, is blaming the misfortune on one of its blast-men, Douglas Acheampong.

The Chinese company’s yard in Talensi.

The blast-man has been held since Thursday in police cells at Tongo, capital of the Talensi District about 13 kilometres from the Upper East Regional Hospital in whose morgue Asante’s body has been placed.

Acheampong is reported to have conducted a blast of mining explosives at the time some of the company’s workers were underground.

The company’s public relations officer, Albert Azongo, told Media Without Borders the tragedy resulted from “a high level of negligence” on the blast-man’s part. He stated that the company itself called the police for his arrest.

The district police station in Tongo, Talensi.

“The decision to cause his arrest was because he flouted all the procedures and protocols he needed to follow as a blast-man before igniting the fire. The company found his action as completely preposterous and found that he demonstrated a high level of negligence and recklessness.

“As a certified blast-man, you need to be sure that everyone [underground] is out. The blast-man should be the last person to do all the necessary checks before igniting the fire. This man, in his own narration, admitted that he did not go to check if the guys were out or in,” said the public relations officer.

He added: “Again he admitted that he only assumed that they were out. So, it was his assumption that they were out. Blast-men do not work on assumptions; you must verify.”

Blast-man being scapegoated for Shaanxi’s fault— Talensi residents react

Some Talensi residents are outraged over Wednesday’s death and damage as countries around the globe prepare to mark “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” this Sunday (tomorrow), 28 April 2024.

Some of the residents suspect that the company’s safety measures are below standard and have expressed the belief that the company only rushed the blast-man to the police station to scapegoat him in an effort to cover up its own fault.

A 2020 Daily Graphic page: Despite instructions from government and compliance assurances from the company on workers’ safety, deaths and injuries keep occurring in its yard.

The company’s mouthpiece has publicly conveyed the company’s wish to have Acheampong put before court for prosecution. But the blaring voices of the residents carry a contrary demand: the blast-man must get a fair hearing.

“They are using the blast-man as a scapegoat. Underground work is a scheduled exercise with a foreman in charge of every shift. It is not the duty of a blast-man to go search to see if the underground is empty before he conducts the blast. The foreman of that shift is responsible for the in and out of the team. We are surprised to hear that Earl International handed over the blast-man to the police.

“Let me put this to you: if the blast-man had been a Chinese person, Shaanxi wouldn’t have sent him to the police. The blast-man, being a Black man, is being used as a scapegoat. The blast-man is not working on his own; he is being supervised by a Chinese man who directs him as to when to conduct the blast,” said an opinion leader in the area, Zumah Baba Yaro.

Continuing, he made a comparison: “The blast-man is like a soldier who needs a commander to command him to fire or not to fire.”

Gban, the gold-mining suburb of Talensi where the Chinese company operates.

Another resident, Mark Sapandoug Yinzor, added his voice: “There are more people at the top within the company who should be answering questions on this matter. But people shouldn’t be surprised if they hear that Shaanxi is not even thinking about compensating those who got injured.”

Endless deaths

Wednesday’s development comes a little over a month after an attempt by the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to seal some mining pits at Gban, the suburb where Shaanxi operates, saw at least two civilians shot dead and an unspecified number wounded.

The two, including a University of Cape Coast (UCC) third-year student named Bright Mbadiatong, were shot and killed when the security officers, who were detailed to enforce the closure of the pits in Shaanxi’s favour, reportedly fired live bullets into a crowd of protesters.

One of the protesters shot last month at Gban. Inset: Bright Mbadiatong, the university student who was shot and killed at the protest scene.

The crowd waged the protest to prevent the Chinese company from taking over their gold-bearing land.

The March 15 gun chaos was followed by a news conference where members of an advocacy organisation named Talensi Mining Communities Initiative (TAMCI) decried recurrent killings of Ghanaians in the district.

Scores were injured as gunfire from state security forces rocked the anti-Shaanxi protests.

“We are sick and tired of getting up and waking up every day to hear that two people have died here. We are sick and tired of the indiscriminate actions that the police and the military from time to time would always come and visit on our people.

“We are sick and tired of waking up to hear that two people have died in a mining pit as a result of improper safety measures,” said a TAMCI founding member, Albert Naa, at the April 2 press conference.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chinese company, Wei Xing.

One of the two people injured in the latest explosion, Sampson Soug, hails from the district.

The company claimed the other injured worker was a Chinese man but failed to provide his name when Media Without Borders asked for his details.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/


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