Chinese firm said to have killed Ghanaian miners with poisonous gas

Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, the Ghana branch of China Gold Resources Group Company, is facing accusations of having released a poisonous gas that caused the deaths of three small-scale miners in one of its operations last week.

Charles Boazor, the brother of one of the victims, told Allafrica.com the official version was the small-scale miners had lost their lives after they inhaled excess smoke in a pit during a blast to extract the mineral. However, his brother said the circumstances were not accidental.

"That smoke was not the kind of smoke we have known, it was not suffocation, it was poisonous,” Boazar's brother was quoted as saying, adding the toxic smoke was forced into the pit by Shanxii Mining.

The company, which is providing mining support services to two small-scale registered mining groups in Ghana’s Upper East Region, responded by saying it was “highly mischievous” to link the unfortunate gassing and subsequent death of the men to the firm.

"Management sees as regrettable the unfortunate and sudden death of these people and sincerely extend its deepest condolences to the bereaved families. However, we note with deep worry the deliberate act of drawing the company's name into this worrisome issue. We must remember that the illegal miners around our company equally sink shafts and blast underground," Maxwell Wooma, the company’s Public Relations Officer told Business Ghana.

Ghana is Africa’s second-biggest gold exporter, behind South Africa, but the sector has long been plagued by unregulated activity.

Several Chinese are involved in small-scale mining, often crossing illegally from neighbouring countries, despite strict laws that prohibit foreigners from engaging in such activities in Ghana.

The West African nation has recently seen a sharp rise in tensions and violent conflict between local residents and illegal Chinese gold miners, who have flocked to the West African nation in large numbers and reportedly caused major environmental damage via the use of heavy machinery.