Prices of petrol and diesel were expected to drop slightly in Ghana in December 2023 as a result of a fall in prices of finished petroleum products on the international fuels market, according to the Institute for Energy Securities (IES).

But Kwesi Boalbil, a mineworker at Earl International Group (Ghana) Gold Limited, was not expected to drop on duty on Thursday, 28 December 2023, and die afterwards.

The employee of the Chinese firm, previously known as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, slumped suddenly to the ground while working at a gold-processing plant at the company’s site in Talensi, a district in Ghana’s Upper East region.

Kwesi Boalbil.

He did not recover from the sudden collapse. He died on the last day of the year at the emergency ward of the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga, the region’s capital. His body was taken from the hospital three days later, as a disconsolate crowd wailed outside the morgue in front of a setting sun, and lowered six feet under in his hometown of Gaare, Talensi.

A section of Gaare-Gban Electoral Area where Kwesi Boalbil was buried on Thursday, 4 January 2024.

Media calls for comments pertaining to happenings inside the large-scale mining company generally now go to Albert Azongo, a radio broadcaster in the region employed about three months ago to shore up the image management of a foreign company laden with countless accusations of very serious human rights transgressions.

The introduction of the company’s new spokesperson, tied with expectations to do the talking better than how he met it, comes a few days after Ebenezer Bognaab’s public relations style was openly critiqued in a textual analysis by the author of this story in September, 2023. 

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chinese company Wei Xing (inset) and some officials of the company in Talensi.

“He collapsed when he was on duty. The first person who saw him is the medical officer of the company at the site. The medical officer examined him and referred him to the hospital. He had a condition which we have established. He suffered uncontrolled hypertension.

“The uncontrolled hypertension led to stroke. And, then, he died of aspiration pneumonia. His family confirmed that he had been on BP (blood pressure) medication for quite some time. But he hadn’t been regular with the intake of the BP medication. We have a lot of other staff here who have high blood pressure,” Azongo told Media Without Borders in a telephone interview on Boalbil’s death.

The Upper East Regional Hospital, Bolgatanga.

Aspiration pneumonia, according to medics, is “an infection of the lungs caused by inhaling saliva, food, liquid, vomit and even small foreign objects”.

It is not clear if Boalbil inhaled any fume, liquid or solid before he collapsed at the processing plant. But a relative is quoted to have said he observed some streaks of blood in the nostrils of the 37-year-old at death.

Two tragedies recorded 5 weeks apart

Boalbil died about five weeks after his fellow employee, Eric Frimpong, died through an accident inside the company’s yard.

A blast man, Frimpong suffered a fatal accident on Friday, 17 November 2023, while he was setting up some rocks underground for blasting.

“He was assigned to carry out that exercise. Reports suggest that he was actually almost done with the assignment and while attempting to come out, he noticed another huge rock which was loose and decided to connect that particular rock for blasting.

“He did that. And after doing that, he was returning and what we call a wedge, a loose rock about ten metres long, came down on him. He was quickly rescued and rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it. As usual, the stakeholders were immediately informed about it, the Minerals Commission particularly,” Azongo told Media Without Borders on Monday, 20 November 2023.

Eric Frimpong’s picture was widely circulated by a grief-stricken section of the public on social media platforms following his death weeks ago.

The company recorded multiple serious accidents in 2023.

On Wednesday, 17 May 2023, Godfred Nabil Nongbezina lost his arm on duty to a machine in the company’s yard. His family said the company abandoned him after paying his initial hospital bills.

Godfred Nabil Nongbezina.

Bognaab, the company’s spokesperson contacted at the time by this media outlet for comments on the plight of the abandoned 24-year-old, declined to speak.

On Monday, 10 July 2023, the company’s electrician, Victor Abisiyine Ayine, went missing while on duty inside the company’s yard.  

Ayine’s lifeless body was pulled out of a pool of the mining company’s wastewater the following day after his younger brother, Jonathan, and some other relatives, who had sat through a sleepless night because Ayine did not return home the previous day, appeared at the company’s site and demanded his whereabouts.

Again, Bognaab declined to comment when the author of this report contacted him last year on Ayine’s death.

The late Victor Abisiyine Ayine.

Thomas Agombire, a Ghana Health Service (GHS) nurse, currently uses crutches and prosthesis (an artificial leg) alternately to aid his daily movements between his house and his workplace in Bolgatanga. He was knocked down from his own motorcycle and run over in 2019 with a Toyota Land Cruiser owned by the Chinese company with registration number WX 8888- 18.

The road crash affected the nurse’s right leg, resulting in doctors amputating the whole leg to save his life. A female nurse, Gloria Atimbila, who sat behind Agombire on the motorcycle got severely injured, too.

She underwent a series of surgeries financed with a loan she personally secured from a bank. The two nurses were never compensated. And when Media Without Borders contacted Bognaab in 2023 for comments from the company on the neglected nurses, he declined to respond.

The nurse, Thomas Agombire, has been going to work on one leg since a Shaanxi Land Cruiser cruised over him in 2019.

Meanwhile, the deaths of Ghanaian mineworkers, recurring since the arrival of the Chinese company in the district in 2008, have begun to beg the question in the region: why do the Shaanxi mining accidents affect only the Ghanaian employees and not also the Chinese expatriates engaged at the same mining site?

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/



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