Ghana: Apocalyptic scenes of gold mine truck explosion, Canadian Kinross Company liable

Ghana: Apocalyptic scenes of gold mine truck explosion, Canadian Kinross Company liable
Debris of houses and other buildings that were destroyed when a vehicle carrying mining explosives detonated along a road in Apiate, Ghana, January 21, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Cooper Inveen

ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies, the London-based human rights think tank, calls for a full inquiry into the recent explosion of a truck carrying explosives to a goldmine in Ghana managed by the Canadian Kinross company.

The moonscape that was created by the blast left apocalyptic scenes where 17 people lay dead or dying, more remain in a critical condition, and 500 homes were damaged or destroyed. Justice for those killed, maimed, and made homeless by what could be a reckless contravention of safety standards must leave no stone unturned. Should liability be established by the inquiry, and warrant it, corporate manslaughter should be one of the possible sanctions available to authorities in both Ghana and Canada.

The many victims of those whose lives have been devastated by this disaster, and their families, deserve not only compensation but also justice.

- Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT International

So egregious was this disaster that a maxim should be established and applied to this and similar corporate failings; ‘some are to blame, all are responsible’. If proper safety measures, able to prevent serious accidents under all eventualities, were not followed, instituted, or established as a condition placed upon subcontractors, then the company should be held liable.

Directors must not be allowed to hide behind corporate lawyers, and insurance companies. Those who may have instituted a regime that led to this very preventable disaster must be held liable; financially and criminally. It would be an insult to the injured and deceased to suggest as the police have stated that proper procedures were followed. Large explosive laden lorries should not detonate from an accident resulting from a collision with a much smaller motorcycle as occurred in Ghana. To blame the driver or unfortunate rider of the motorcycle and put liability onto those unwitting actors would be cynical and an act of evading justice for those that may have suffered injury and loss from what could be serious and criminal breach of safety standards.

ImpACT International calls on the authorities in both Ghana and Canada to mount a full investigation, backed up the force of law. This requires a special independent judge that has the power to demand documents, summon witnesses, and recommend both penalties, and prosecution of those that are found to be responsible.

Legislative changes are also needed to hold people liable not only for a specific breach of safety regulations as may have occurred in Ghana but also for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that disasters, as has been so sadly seen in Ghana, do not happen anywhere else. Failing to set adequate safety standards and omitting to place those protocols into conditions of contracts with subcontractors and also not monitoring their application should place the ultimate owner and beneficiary of a venture liability for any breach and resulting harm.

Regardless of any investigation the goldmine run by Canada’s Kinross company should do the right thing and unilaterally and fully compensate those affected, and their families, by this disaster.

ImpACT will be closely following this situation. We note the heroic action of Ghana’s health and emergency services. Without the intervention the death toll may have been higher. Yet, this should never have occurred. Lessons need to be learned so that it does not happen elsewhere.

Robert Oulds, Executive Director of ImpACT International, states,

The many victims of those whose lives have been devastated by this disaster, and their families, deserve not only compensation but also justice. Action is also needed. There must also be a new environment where shareholders, owners, directors, managers, and safety inspectors, along with local authorities and regulators know that any breach of safety or failing to enforce sufficient measures will result in fines and forfeiture of freedom for those who let disasters happen.”

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