40 Trapped in Gold Mine, 5 Bodies Retrieved

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In spite of the glaring safety risks, artisanal miners relentlessly swarm the area, making a living panning for gold.

Forty persons are reportedly trapped at the Gbanepea Gold Mine in Gbanepea Town, Near Tappita City, Nimba County. According to reports, about 60 persons, mainly young men, went to the mines when a portion of the land crashed on them and about 20 of them were able to return safely on Saturday, February 9. The situation has sent the town into mourning.

When the Daily Observer visited the scene of the accident, there were many people searching for their loved ones, while others wept for their relatives who were reported to have been left under the debris.

Prince Kruah, 32, explained that up press time last night, he could not locate his brother, Mehnkeh, a father of 7. “Since the incident, I am yet to locate my brother, who was among the group that went in the hole, but I continue to search for him everywhere,” he said in tears.

Meanwhile, five bodies were reported to have been retrieved from the disaster.

Another eyewitness, who is among the survivors,  told this newspaper that there were about 60 persons in the hole when the debris collapsed on them.

He said they dug about 20 feet deep and went 200 meters digging under the mines (undermine digging) where there were four compartments.

These men show our reporter one of the channels (rear) used by the miners to go digging for gold.

He said gold deposits were located in each of the compartments and to get to the gold, they had to crawl on narrow paths. He said more than 40 persons had crawled into the compartments when what seemed like a landslide descended on them. He said those who were far deeper into the holes could not find any escape route, except those who were not near the compartments.

“I managed to survive, because I was not near the compartment,” he said, adding that he would not identify himself, because his family had warned him not to venture into the mines.

G. Odafor Kartee, a member of the family that owns the land where the Gbanepea Gold Mine is located, expressed concern over the influx of young men who are involved in mining activities.

Kartee said this is the third time such an incident had taken place in the area, and had killed people since the mine was open in late September, 2018.

He explained that gold was discovered in the area in the early 1930s. The Gbanepea Gold Mine is about 10 kilometers from Tappita City, and it has drawn huge numbers of teenagers, including women, seeking for gold.

In December last year, the local authority ordered the mine closed due to the continued landslide, which always resulted in a number of casualties.

Tappita District Statutory Superintendent, Audrey Wehyee blamed one Papa Emmanuel Kartee, who reportedly owns creek that contains the gold deposit for the incident. Wehyee said Kartee failed to abide by the closure order from the local authority.

He said the very night of the incident, Papa Kartee took some boys on the field, where they were able to extract 60 bags of gravel for him.

He alleged that afterward, the boys took advantage to rush into the hole, when the landslide blocked the entrance, leaving several trapped or killed.

Recently, there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Papa Kartee and a Sackor family to jointly mine the area, but the MoU is yet to be notarized, Supt. Wheye said.

G. Gibrel Moses, head of a private security firm manning the place, said the day the MoU was signed, a group of men over 800 rushed to the gold field, chanted terroristic threats aginst anyone who would stand in their way, with a slogan “last rush.”

“We tried stopping them, but they overpowered us at midnight only to hear in the morning that some of them were trapped in the mine and died,” Moses said.

Residents of Kartee’s village said that the young miners got to the mine illegally under the cover of darkness, using different routes.

There is no sign of police officers at the site to man the area, but Nimba County Inspector Reginald Mehn informed this newspaper via mobile that the county officials will be meeting on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, this reporter was forbidden from reaching the actual scene of the landslide due to the presence of the country devil who had gone there to restore order.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Can you imagine this, people are trapped under a mudslide and even feared dead, and instead of county officials taking control of the situation/investigation, a “country devil” is now in control? Wouldn’t this compromise the integrity of the investigation? Why surrender a delicate responsibility such as this investigation, which requires forensic methods to get to the bottom of the cause of this accident and how to prevent future others, to some primitive people? This is outright crazy and shouldn’t even be associated with any country in this day and age. Unbelievable!

  2. A wise person once said, “Peace and poverty do not co-exist happily.”

    Poverty is the great divider in Liberia! How can our leaders ask these poor people to be peaceful and law-abiding when these poor people are consumed by extreme poverty? In no way am I advocating anarchy, nor am I undermining the peace Liberians have faithfully enjoyed over the past 15 years.

    Nevertheless, the difficult economic situation in Liberia should speak for itself. How can these leaders sit supinely and pretend that economically things are going on fine and not realize the security risks extreme poverty has on the country?

    The haves (big shots) live in their so-called secured gated fences while the have-not (poor people) have to sacrifice their lives just to survive by digging dangerously far beneath the earth in poorly regulated gold and diamond mines.

    The deaths of too many illegal miners are reasons for the authority to do something drastic to prevent more deaths from occurring in this poorly regulated sector. Lawlessness is on the rise. It posts a security risk to the country.

    The lack of jobs is causing mass influx of these young people to make these perilous (dangerous) voyages to these unregulated gold/diamond mines around the country.

    There are too many senseless deaths in Liberia (from preventable mining accidents, from preventable traffic accidents, from curable diseases, from preventable infant mortality, etc.) while our overpaid lawmakers and leaders are riding around in their SUVs unprepared to manage these security crises going on around the country.

    Saving lives should of paramount importance to any leadership.

    Remember, “Peace and poverty do not co-exist happily.”

  3. Whenever I HEAR, ” The Devil have been called upon to settle a matter”. I wonder, what is a DEVIL good for? All through my life, I’ve been told, “THE DEVIL IS EVIL”. Is the DEVIL at the mine site to save anyone? I’m in doubt. We have a choice. It’s God’s way or the DEVIL. I’m certain! Many LIBERIANS prefer God’s way. We can’t have it both ways. Put God first. You will be BLESSED.

  4. An old saying goes, “History repeats itself.” Yes, only if an individual or a group of people becomes a static believer in moral aphorisms, then that group is stuck in tradition, and it will always think that way. But I choose to put it this way: “History can only repeat itself if people fail to summon the courage to learn from their past.”

    This episode brings to mind the Mano River landslide disaster that occurred years ago in Grand Cape Mount County during the early days of the late Samuel K. Doe’s regime. Many government officials including the late president himself went on the site to condole with grieving families. The need to enforce industrial and mining laws were talked about to ensure the safety of mine workers and to avoid any such future occurrences or tragedies. And as memories of the tragedy faded, the plans dissipated in thin air.

    A nation that believes that history repeats itself is stuck in the past; for there is always a room for flexibility as good leaders often recast their vision in an attempt to make the future brighter for the upcoming generations.
    History does not always have to repeat itself. To think like that is fallacious, and it causes an individual or a group that is infatuated or obsessed with one way of thinking, to fail to examine the past with the object of bettering the future.

    And so, here we are!

  5. Another major catastrophe looming over Liberia, which will come to haunt us in the not too distant future is the compounding of our illiteracy rate. As it stands right now we have about 65% illiteracy rate in Liberia. With this gold/diamond phenomenon that has hit all over Liberia in recent years and attracting school-age kids, Liberia will be importing teachers and other professionals from neighboring countries once again, as we did in the 50s up to the mid 70s. And our dumb government officials, past and present, have not realized this potential threat in order to begin taking the necessary corrective measures to address that problem. “Where there’s no vision, the people perish,” the good book admonishes us.

  6. This is a sad story coming out of Nimba County. Before we express these different thoughts, the damage has happened. Since Nimba County Administreation have 21 pieces of Earth moving equipments, several of them could be moved to the immediate area to help dig the earth for survival. They could even call on Archelor Mittal Company to send oxygen into any possible openings to help save livess instead of country devil taking control of investigatioin which normally resport to no positive outcome. County administration should look for help in as much as they can. I am sure AML has equipment or oxygen.

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