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18.08.2005 General News

“Galamsey” operators crushed to death- survivor

It has now been confirmed that a number of illegal miners (galamsey) operators were trapped when the pit in which they were prospecting for gold at Nyanfoman-Noyem in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region caved in on Wednesday.

This puts to rest the controversy surrounding the fate of the illegal miners.

The leader of the joint AngloGold/Newmont Ghana/Dunkwa Continental Goldfields rescue team, Mr John Baidoo, and Mr Obiri Yeboah, Senior Inspector of Mines, made this known when Madam Rita Iddi, a Deputy Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines, Ms Esther Obeng Dapaah,the Member of Parliament(MP)for the area, and the District Chief Executive, Nana Acquah Frempong, visited the site yesterday.

According to the two men, Mr Stephen Cobinna, who claimed to be the last person to have climbed up from the pit when it caved in, said a number of his colleagues got buried when the walls caved in.

He said Cobinna,who had now left the area, decided to speak so that the rescue team would be emboldened to work hard to recover the bodies.

“The illegal miners know that we will at all cost get to where their colleagues died so they have come out with this information and that is what we are looking for,” Mr Baidoo said.

He said the team had now dug up to about 60 feet and was waiting for the arrival of equipment fitted with a video camera from Dunkwa Continental Golfields, which would be installed to enable the team to locate objects 60 feet deep.

He, however, indicated that it would take up to six hours for the installation of the equipment if it arrived yesterday.

The deputy minister expressed concern about the incident and said all efforts would be made to retrieve the bodies, although some of the galamsey operators still maintained that nobody was trapped.

She advised the illegal operators to organise themselves into groups so that they could be given licences to carry out their operations under supervision to reduce the hazards associated with their activites.

Ms Dapaah commended AngloGold Ashanti, Newmont, Dunkwa Continental Goldfields and the police for their effort in dealing with the situation.

Meanwhile,some of the illegal miners whose pits were a few yards away from the scene of the tragedy were seen carrying out their activities when the Graphic visited the site yesterday.

A leader of one of the “gangs,” Kwabena Ofori,from Achiase,did not see anything wrong with their activities because, according to him, one Kwadjo Kese,the owner of the land on which they operated,had formed a company called Aben Mining,to which each individual miner paid ¢100, 000 every month.

He said Kwadjo Kese, in addition,took a third of each bag of soil containing the gold dust. The illegal miners, therefore,appealed to the authorities to regularise their operations because flushing them out from the site would render them unemployed.