Two illegal small-scale miners— Mohammed Amidu and Nashidu Ayoka— who rebelled against a court order in pursuit of gold were carried out like barbecue from a mining pit in Talensi after a mining explosive accidentally went off and grilled them with fire underground.

The men who went down to their aid, after the fire in the tunnel seemed to have completed its job, returned later from the Upper East Regional Hospital with their own clothes stained with blood like the aprons of the butchers at a hand-operated abattoir.

One of the illegal miners being attended to after the explosion.

It happened on Friday, 4 August 2023, at Gban, a gold-mining community in the east of Talensi, a district in Ghana’s Upper East Region.  

The site of the explosion had been a subject of civil litigation between two parties at the High Court ‘2’ in the region’s capital, Bolgatanga, months before the disaster struck.

Justice Alexander Graham had approved an injunction on Thursday, 23 February 2023, barring unauthorised individuals or groups from working at that site.

Medics attending to one of the illegal miners at the Upper East Regional Hospital on August 4, 2023.

He was forced to leave the region the following month after his residence came under a violent attack many believed was linked to his job. And his successor, Justice Frederick Kwabena Twumasi, had barely sat down when he, too, fled the region for similar reasons.

Although the injunction is still in force, unauthorised miners are taking advantage of the absence of a judge at that court, intruding into the site at will under the watch of the Ghana Police Service.

A cross-section of the site.

The intruders are having a field day on the goldfield, openly enjoying an impunity to steal and poking fun at contempt in a judgeless court in a manner that, perhaps, best illustrates the familiar saying: “While the cat is away, the mice will play.”

How the explosion happened

The information Media Without Borders gathered indicates that the two illegal miners had set an explosive on August 3, 2023, inside a mining pit at the site to shatter a lump of gold ore.  

Then, they set alight the detonating cord on the explosive. The detonating cord is a rope-like material that runs through the explosive. It is similar to the string that passes through a candle.

Nashidu Ayoka after the explosion.

Shortly after the device had blown up underground and the resulting smoke had faded away, they descended into the dark tunnel to collect the split ore.

But unknown to them, the detonating cord did not fully burn through the full length of the explosive. A segment of the device was still left unexploded in the pit.

While collecting the pieces of ore, they also spotted another mass of ore hanging overhead. They reached for chisels and hammers, and began to chip the rock off the overhead deck to bring it down to the floor.

One of the mining pits at the site.

They were doing the dirty job very fast because their alleged leader, Abiseyine Ayamga, had warned them before they went down the pit not to spend much time in there.

Then, suddenly, a chisel peeled the skin of the rock and out of the deep shaving came a very bright spark. The spark came down like a meteorite falling from outer space.

Another mining pit being used despite a court injunction.

It hit the cord of that remaining segment of the explosive on the ground. A flame popped up from the contact. And before they knew it— boom! Explosion. The tunnel shook. And a robust fire engulfed the whole hole.

A relaxation structure erected by the intruders at the site.

On hearing the explosion sound and a cry of terror from below the ground, some men who were around the site at the time rushed to their rescue and conveyed them to the Upper East Regional Hospital.

Footprints of a cover-up

The following day, 5 August 2023, plainclothes officers visited the hospital.

During the visit, the policemen learnt that Amidu had died and that Ayoka survived but the blast had claimed four fingers from his left hand, sparing only the thumb.

The explosion caused burns to Ayoka’s body and affected one of his eyes.

The explosion also affected his right eye and caused severe burns to his body from his face down.

On Sunday, 6 August 2023, one Raheem Nsoyine went to the hospital’s mortuary and claimed Amidu’s body from the morgue for a hurried burial.

The hospital’s authorities said Nsoyine did not disclose the true circumstances that led to Amidu’s death to the mortuary attendants when he went for the body. He reportedly lied to them that Amidu fell in a manhole and died from the fall.

The Upper East Regional Hospital.

Amidu died before he arrived at the hospital, according to eyewitnesses. Observers say the swift removal of his body from the morgue has the marks of a cover-up.

The hospital’s mortuary where Amidu’s body was taken by Nsoyine.

Police, they add, should have been informed under such circumstances to carry out investigations before his body was released for burial.

“Actually they brought the bodies to our hospital on the 4th of August in the night. The police even followed up the following morning. It wasn’t appropriate to have released the body. I told the mortuary attendants. They said the relative pleaded he (the deceased) was a Muslim.

“It was an error on their (the mortuary attendants’) part. Even if the person fell in a manhole and died, it’s still a police case. I told them they should make sure the police were informed next time in such situations,” the hospital’s Clinical Coordinator, Dr Samuel Aborah, told Media Without Borders on Monday, 14 August 2023.

Residents await a punitive action on the development at the morgue.

Allegations against police

The site of the explosion belongs to the plaintiff in the case, Zongdan Boyak Kolog, a philanthropist better known as Polo.

He secured the 24.87 acres in 2013 under the name Nalamtaaba Enterprise for small-scale mining purposes.

A cross-section of the Nalamtaaba Enterprise’s concession in Talensi.

Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited, a Chinese firm previously called Shaanxi Mining Company, is laying claim to Kolog’s concession, saying it is now part of the 16.02 square kilometres of land it acquired in 2017 for a large-scale mining operation.

A snippet of the 16.02 square kilometres swathe of land Shaanxi controversially grabbed for a large-scale operation in Talensi.

On Friday, 17 February 2023, Kolog took the dispute to court against the foreign company and four others who are the Minerals Commission, the District Chief Executive of Talensi, Thomas Wuni Duanab, the Chief of Gbane, Elijah Nab Pardnyuun, and Pardzie Nab, a one-time accused person nicknamed ‘Commando’.

Soon after he went to court, he also filed an application for interlocutory injunction against the defendants, which Justice Graham granted.

And as illegal miners continued to intrude into his concession because his court case was not making progress, Kolog repeatedly reported the breach of the court’s order to the police.

Ghana’s Inspector-General of Police, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare.

But his complaints did not yield any results. The police responded only after he reported the explosion to them, visiting the hospital afterwards to commence their investigations.

“I have complained several times to the police that some people are intruding into my concession but the police have connived with traditional leaders and some small-scale miners to do all the illegal things they are doing on the Nalamtaaba Enterprise’s concession. Worse things are likely to happen as the police continue to watch unconcerned how a court order on the concession is being disobeyed.

Machines being used by the intruders at the site.

“What hurts me most is that I am the legally registered concessionaire on that portion. These small-scale miners who go to steal from my concession don’t have any safety protocols. They only go there to steal and to disturb people. And this is masterminded by traditional leaders and some people around. It is so disturbing to see a whole regional command, particularly the Regional Crime Officer, behaving the way he is behaving. He is not proactive at all,” Kolog told Media Without Borders.

Polo (marked by a blue box) has a large following in Talensi.

Police action and reaction

The release of Amidu’s body without official authorisation by the police enraged some Talensi residents as well.

They alleged that a top police officer in the region had foreknowledge of Nsoyine’s plan to unlawfully claim the body from the morgue and that he personally encouraged it to happen for favour.

The intruders had gone down the pits when Media Without Borders visited the site to fetch evidence.

They hinted at plans to lodge a petition with the Inspector-General of Police, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare, against the police officer whose name they said they would reveal in their petition very soon.

The Regional Police Headquarters, Upper East Region.

When Media Without Borders contacted the Upper East Regional Crime Officer, C/Supt. Reuben Yao Dugah, on the explosion and the state of the victims, he declined to comment.

Instead, he referred the media outlet to the police public affairs unit at the regional headquarters in Bolgatanga.

But the Upper East Regional Police Public Relations Officer, ASP David Fianko-Okyere, who scarcely talks to the media when contacted, did not ‘disappoint’. The police mouthpiece did not answer the calls placed to his telephone line by Media Without Borders on Monday, 14 August 2023.  

The District Police Headquarters, Bolgatanga.

“If the police in the region had enforced the court’s injunction on that concession,” said another angry Talensi native, Raphael Yindol, “this calamity would not have happened.”

Meanwhile, a top police officer told Media Without Borders that police had launched investigations into the matter to bring to book the persons responsible for the unlawful retrieval of Amidu’s body from the morgue.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/


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