18 women, 2 men killed in Ghana gold mine disaster
By David Adadevoh (AFP) ACCRA — The roof of an illegal gold mine in Ghana collapsed killing at least 18 people, including 14 women, in one of the worst mining disasters to hit the African nation, police said on Thursday.
Thirty miners were believed to be inside the mine in Dompoase, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Accra, said police commander Kojo Antwi Tabi.
Tabi said more bodies could be recovered from the privately-run mine.
Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa. Revenues from gold, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s mineral exports, stood at 2.2 billion dollars last year, according to the Chamber of Mines.
The accident has thrown an unwelcome spotlight on Ghana’s thriving mining industry, much of it illegal, particularly in the west where Wednesday’s tragedy occurred.
Mining is a major source of livelihood in the area and crucial to the national economy.
Tabi called on the government to impose tighter controls, despite the failure of repeated government attempts to curb illegal or unlicensed mining.
Officials say the practice is becoming more widespread, partly because of a US dollar meltdown which has driven up gold prices to Thursday’s all-time high of above 1,123 dollars an ounce in London.
Some illegal mining rings are controlled by intermediaries who smuggle the gold out of the country to evade taxes.
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.
Legal mining companies complain they have to put up with accidents caused by illegal miners and bear the cost of replacing the equipment they sabotage or steal.
Two people were buried alive last month when the gold mine in which they were working in Damang town, in the same region, caved in.
Eighteen miners were killed while 30 others went missing in April 2007 when a clandestine gold mine caved in west of Accra.
Some legitimate companies say their expansion is hampered by the presence of illegal miners.
In their defence, many illegal miners say they have no other option in order to feed their families..
Ghana is endowed with natural resources such as gold and cocoa and has a per capita output roughly twice the average of its neighbours in west Africa