"Exploded quarry in Shama was operating illegally" - Minerals Commission
The Minerals Commission has said the quarry, which exploded at Kobenandohkrom in the Shama District of the Western on Sunday was operating illegally.
The commission said mine inspectors noticed that the company was working at night ostensibly to prevent them from being noticed by the inspectors of the Commission and the local task force comprising the police and members of the sand winners and quarry association.
A routine monitoring visit by the inspectors from the Takoradi Office of the commission to the site revealed that the enterprise was engaged in site cleaning and preparatory works and had conducted run of the machines and equipment on site without the approval of the Commission.
In a statement, the commission said its preliminary investigations confirm that the site of the explosion is a subject of an application by a company with the name STA Addsams Enterprise.
An explosion at the STA Addsam quarry mine, formerly Omini Quarry, in the Shama District in the Western Region, has killed four persons and left many injured.
Many night workers, believed to be Chinese and Ghanaians, were burnt beyond recognition, while others, including the managing director (MD) of the company, are still missing.
Those who survived were rushed to the various hospitals in the district and Sekondi.
A fuel station and the only health post in the area were not spared, as the blast caused extensive damage to countless structures and compromised the structural integrity of many buildings.
Sunday’s incident is the second to hit the Western Region in less than two years after an explosion wiped out Appeatse in January last year.
The explosion is said to have occurred at about half past midnight yesterday from an unapproved storage for explosives.
Checks by the Daily Graphic from multiple sources revealed that the explosives were being kept in an adjoining facility to the residence of the workers of the company without permit from regulators, contrary to the law governing the acquisition, storage and use of explosives.
The sources suspected the MD to be one of the four Chinese who could not be accounted for.
The sources alleged that when the driver of the MD arrived at the site last Saturday, the MD asked him to sleep in the car but he decided to walk home to sleep and return to work the following morning.
They said the driver returned to the site yesterday morning only to hear that the MD’s vehicle was part of the vehicles destroyed by the explosion.
“The only way you can tell if the MD is around is when you see his car, and his car is among the properties destroyed in the blast,” a source said.
It explained that the Chinese nationals were sleeping in an apartment outside the quarry until they built a residential facility at the mines where they all sleep.
Asked if the mine had the right to store explosives, the source said, “when it comes to explosives, officials of the Minerals Commission come and make sure that we use what we can and if we are not able to use all they take it away.”
The source said the quarry might have procured the explosives from the open market on the blind side of the regulator because the quarry does not have the permit to store such explosives.
When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Martin Ayisi, said that the commission’s mine inspectors were carrying out investigation at the site.
He described the incident as unfortunate and added that his team was working around the clock to establish what went wrong.
When asked whether the storage was permitted, he said that could be ascertained only after the inspectors had completed their investigation.
The District Chief Executive for Shama, Ebenezer Dadzie, also told the Daily Graphic that efforts were underway to recover those missing and ascertain the extent of damage.
Describing the situation as unfortunate, he said the District Security Council, which he chairs, could not readily disclose the number of injured persons and deaths.
He said the assembly and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) in the district were in the community to take a closer look at the affected property and advise the victims accordingly.
Information gathered by the Daily Graphic also indicated that the company was storing the explosives illegally.
A source close to the company said the explosion did not occur in the process of blasting, rather the explosives were being kept in a room which was not a structured storage explosive magazine.
The source said owing to the poor handling of the explosives, it became charged and detonated, razing the quarry to the ground and causing havoc to the nearby communities.
The Senior Fire Service Officer, Emmanuel Bonney, who led the rescue team, said nine people sustained serious injuries and were receiving treatment at the hospital.
He said information made available to them indicated that four other Chinese workers who resided on the premises were missing.
Mr Bonney said preliminary findings indicated that there was storage of explosive materials — ammonium nitrate and fuel — which were not handled well, leading to the explosion.
The Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), George Diawuoh, also said his outfit and other sister agencies were still studying