Warning: Contains Graphic Images— TAMCI officials march for 16 people killed in Shaanxi explosion, make 8 demands

TAMCI officials at the independence day parade grounds.

The unexpected happened Wednesday in Talensi, a district in Ghana’s Upper East region, when officials of the Talensi Mining Communities Initiative (TAMCI) emerged at an independence day anniversary parade park and marched in remembrance of some 16 young men killed in a mining explosion in the area in 2019.

The advocacy group is loved by many people in the district because of its transparency and accountability trademark. But the group has remained a pain in the neck of some public officeholders said to be aligned with wealthy mining companies responsible for serious human rights violations in the district.

Map of Talensi. Source: ResearchGate.

A number of the public officeholders were at the independence day parade grounds, looking uneasy and peering at the TAMCI officials from the corners of their spectacles as they marched past a reviewing stand along with some other private and public institutions.

The TAMCI officials at the park.

The TAMCI contingent held placards, some of them saying: “Justice for the 16 victims of Shaanxi blast in 2019”; “Minerals Development Fund for Talensi”; “Recruitment and training for Talensi youth” and “Compensate small-scale miners or leave their pits alone”.

The 2019 disaster

There was a sudden explosion during the midnight hours of Tuesday, 22 January 2019, inside a disputed mining pit at Gban, east of Talensi.

Out of the smoke-engulfed pit hurried some young Ghanaians, each fighting for breath and foaming at the mouth. Soon after they came out of the pit, they fell unconscious.

Some of the young men laid outside the pit after the explosion. (Faces not blurred here so the froth at the mouths of the victims can be seen).

Torch-bearing rescuers carried them on their backs from the perimeters of the pit to a waiting car and rushed them to the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga, about an hour drive away. One of the rescuers died in an accident as the 16 men were being taken to the hospital.

The young men did not make it. Doctors declared them dead on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.

Bodies of the explosion victims on the floor of the morgue. (Faces blurred as images may be sensitive to readers).

Never in the history of mining misfortunes in Talensi had such a number of people died in a single explosion. Talensi was in the headlines on air and on paper. Ghana wept.


As the autopsied bodies of the victims lay on top of one another in a heap on the floor of the hospital’s morgue, a grief-stricken crowd of Talensi natives held an emotionally charged press conference at the forecourt of the morgue, demanding probe, prosecution and punishment.

And as the grief peaked during that week, some irate youths planned to dump the bodies of the victims in the yard of Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, a Chinese firm held responsible for the underground explosion. They also planned to burn down the office buildings of the company, the Minerals Commission in Bolgatanga and the Talensi District Assembly.

Natives of the district addressing the press at a news conference in front of the mortuary.

In the midst of the crisis, the Minerals Commission ordered Shaanxi to shut down its operations. Then, the commission set up a committee to investigate the disaster.

The committee found the Chinese company culpable and, as highlighted in its report released in March that year, imposed a fine of $40,000 on the company for its role in the catastrophe.

A massive demonstration rocked Talensi after the disaster.

The committee’s recommendations left many extremely disappointed as they felt the $40,000 fine was not punitive enough against Shaanxi and because there was no mention of any compensation in the committee’s report for the families of the 16 slain young men. 

Independence day press conference

Before now, TAMCI and its donor partner, Savannah Research and Advocacy Network (SRAN), had been observing January 23 annually in commemoration of the 2019 mining disaster.

And they call the annual event ‘Black Wednesday’ because the young men were killed on Wednesday.

SRAN’s Albert Naa addressing the press during the ‘Black Wednesday’ commemoration held on January 23, 2023, at the site of the 2019 explosion in Gban.

But this year’s commemoration was withheld and staged at the independence day anniversary grounds to make local stakeholders more conscious of the fact that while it was a good thing for Ghana to march in celebration of her freedom from the past colonial rule, it equally was good for the Talensi people to march in demand for freedom from the current oppression and exploitation being perpetrated by foreign mining companies and their local allies against the natives.

The march-past was not the only activity SRAN-backed TAMCI undertook. The group also held a news conference on the sidelines of the independence day occasion.

The TAMCI officials readying themselves for the press conference in Talensi on Wednesday, 6th March 2024.

The presser centred on the chronic deprivation that had plagued the district despite the abundance of gold underground.

“The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Our Democracy, Our Pride’. We the citizens of Talensi wish we could jump for joy and join the celebration, but we cannot because foreigners are milking our district dry. The weight of our oppression is so heavy that we cannot say we are proud of our democracy.

“We note with sadness that our democracy is consumed by injustice. It’s been 4 years now since 16 energetic young men painfully lost their lives through the negligence and carelessness of Shaanxi now Earl International in Talensi,” said the group in a statement read by its president, Bismark Zumah.

Bismark Zumah delivering the TAMCI statement at the press confab.

The statement added: “The only crime of these youngsters was their pursuit to provide for their families. We cannot join this year’s celebration because the company that caused this crime has been given an even bigger license to operate and has not been made to pay for their crimes against the land and its people. Almost 100 youths have perished since Shaanxi arrived in Talensi”.


The group also faulted Cardinal Namdini, another foreign mining company operating in the district, for reportedly treating the citizens with discrimination in employment opportunities and compensation packages due them.

But it commended Engineers and Planners Company Limited, a mining and construction firm, “for so far being the only mining contractor in Cardinal Namdini (Shandong Ltd) whom our youths have good things to say about”.

Talensi is deprived despite the abundant mineral resources it is endowed with.

TAMCI concluded by calling on the traditional authorities in the area and the Talensi District Assembly to meet these 8 demands:

1.     To constitute a committee to draw compensation plans to alleviate the plight of the 2019 Shaanxi blast victims.

2.    To set up a committee to study and ensure that the provisions of LI 2431 of the Mining & Minerals Law, Regulation 2020 on local content are enforced and adhered to by mining companies in the district. Both small and large scale.

3.    To investigate the immigration statuses of workers in Earl International (Shaanxi) and Cardinal and take the necessary actions.

4.    To compel Kwasi Bantama to support the victims of his employees who were murdered by Shaanxi in 2019 since he has since 2020 ceded his concession to Earl International and by so doing has been earning some royalties from gold produced by Earl International.

5.    To encourage the minerals development committee to be open and account to the people periodically what the monies paid by the mining companies into the MDF account is being used for.

6.    To call a public forum for the mining companies in Talensi to discuss with the citizens their reclamation plans and exit strategy.

7.    To see to that the provisions of LI 2174 of the Mining and Minerals Regulations 2012 on Resettlement and Compensations come into full force in Talensi. Farmlands, crops, trees with economic benefits (Shea, ‘nansobra’ ‘nankpaara’), etc must be properly compensated for.

8.    To encourage the two major mining companies in Talensi, i.e Cardinals & Earl International Gold Ghana Ltd to invest some of the proceeds in the Pwalugu Tomato Factory to create more jobs in the district and to generate more IGF for other developmental endeavours.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org


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