…As the number of bodies recovered rises to 8
The 50 illicit miners arrested by the Liberian Army at the Gbanepea Gold Mine in Tappita Statutory District in Nimba County on Sunday, February 17, have been released. They were released following the intervention of Representative Dorwoan Gleekia, a lawmaker representing the area in the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
The illicit miners, including both men and women, were picked up after President George Weah declared the mining area a National Disaster Zone, following the February 9 incident in which the mine collapsed, thus leaving 40 of the miners trapped under the debris.
According to Rep. Gleekia, the miners were released on Monday, February 18, after he held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Justice, among them officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for their release.
He observed that those arrested were not aware of the information, regarding the presence of security officers and the announcement that the incident area was a no-go zone for civilians.
Gleekia said that another body was recovered from the collapsed mine, putting the number of the confirmed dead to eight. He said rescuers carried out manual excavation with shovels.
He added, “the body was unrecognizable because it had partly decomposed.”
There is no record to show the identities of the victims and only DNA tests could establish family relations with their loved ones.
It is suspected that most of the miners may have come from far places across Liberia and neighboring countries, according to information, therefore it may be difficult for all of the bodies to be identified, except those from nearby communities.
The site of the incident is about 45 minutes walk from the nearest car road; that is also hampering the movement of yellow machines into the area for speedy recovery of the bodies buried underground.
An elderly man, Odafus Kartee from the affected village told this newspaper that gold was discovered in Gbanepea area in 1932 and again in 1994. Gold is also believed to be in a mountain, which could be viewed behind Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita.
“This is a national disaster and we are thinking about getting aid to those who have fled the area too. We are also looking at the environmental hazard it has caused for the community,” Rep. Gleekia said.
Members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are in control of the mining zone and are carrying out rigorous checks on anyone entering and leaving the area.