Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Miners Feared Dead After Ghana Gold Mine Collapse

Miners feared dead after Ghana gold mine collapse

Tue Jun 29, 11:46 AM

ACCRA (AFP) - Dozens of miners remained missing and feared dead on Tuesday after the roof of a clandestine gold mine collapsed under heavy rains in southern Ghana, an official said.

Chances of finding survivors were "remote", Peter Kofi Owusu-Ashia, a municipal chief in the town of Dunkwa-on-Offin, said.

"So far 32 people are feared dead and the toll could even be more," he said.

Owusu-Ashia earlier said the exact number of miners killed or still trapped in the mine was not easy to determine "because we have not recovered any body yet".

"But checking from the logbook 136 illegal miners had reported for work on that Sunday," he said on the phone from the mining town around 200 (125 miles) kilometres northwest of the capital Accra.

Rescue workers were pumping out the water and excavating the pit to try to retrieve any bodies.

"We are still trying to dig and see if we can see people buried underground, and if some are still alive, but the possibility of finding people alive is a bit remote since the incident took place on Sunday and the pit is flooded with water," he said.

Officials were able to work out the preliminary toll of suspected dead after meeting some of the local community leaders who reported numbers missing.

"We have not spoken to most of the community leaders yet," he added.

The disaster is the second to hit the gold-rich west African country in under a year. Last November at least 18 people died, including 14 women, in one of Ghana's worst mining disasters.

In April 2007, 18 miners were killed while 30 others went missing when an illegal gold mine caved in west of Accra.

"This is another disaster that hit the country after the recent floods which had claimed lives and millions worth of properties lost," Minister for Central Region, Ama Benyiwa-Doe, told AFP.

Many of the west African country's illegal gold-mining pits are mined by so-called "galamsey" -- farmers evicted to make way for large-scale mining operations, or former miners who lost their jobs to machinery.

Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa. Revenues from gold accounts for more than 90 percent of the country's mineral exports.

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