Dr. Solomon Owusu Writes: Negligence, Regulation Lapses And Institutional Failures Caused The Apiatse, Bogoso Catastrophic Disaster

A Ghanaian mining consultant based in USA, Dr. Solomon Owusu has linked the tragic incident that happened at Apiatse to institutional failures from both the regulatory authorities and the explosives company.

The town is located between Bogoso and Bawdie in the Western Region of Ghana and the disaster occurred on Thursday January 20, 2022. According to the experienced mining engineer, ineffective explosives regulations, governmental control and strict supervision were not applied to ensure safe conveyance of the explosives.

The mining expert has disagreed with the claim by the Police PRO that the service “procedurally” escorted the explosives truck. In his view, there was no way the truck could collide head-on with a motorcycle, if the due protocols for explosives transportation escort had been followed.

According to Dr. Owusu, information he has gathered from some of the residents around Tarkwa and Bogoso areas indicate that MAXAM Ghana Company Ltd had subcontracted the explosives transportation to Arthranns Logistics Company, hence the truck that was involved in the tragedy did not belong to the explosives company itself.

Currently, it is unclear whether the truck had certification from the Minerals Commission and satisfied the requirements for an explosive truck, as enshrined in the Ghana’s Minerals and Mining Explosives Regulations, 2012, Legislative Instrument (LI 2177). Also, it is too early to justify whether the truck driver was trained and certified to transport explosives but that aspect is left with the investigations team.

As investigations are currently in progress, there are different views on what actually happened, as the initial police report contradicts information from some of the eyewitnesses, some of the victims and the natural resources ministry. For example, the police reported that a motorcycle collided head-on with the truck but the ministry of lands and natural resources reported a tricycle instead. Again, the motorcycle rider who is alive has denied any collision with the truck, after interviewing with some journalists, stating that another vehicle hit his motorcycle from the back. These make it premature for suggesting any meaningful cause of the incident at this time but the experienced mining engineer, Dr. Owusu insists that negligence from the explosives company might contribute immensely to the unfortunate incident.

As a mining consultant who has worked in different mining companies in Ghana and the United States with deep understanding on mining issues, Solomon thinks it is even illogical why mining companies in Ghana risk transporting the hazardous Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil (ANFO), instead of manufacturing it on mining sites. He said, “it is about time we prioritize safety over economics.” His initial investigations, after gathering information from people living in the area and also reviewing the Ghana laws on explosives transportation, show that the explosives company failed to follow the international standard operating procedures required to transport explosives and other hazardous materials. Considering the globally acceptable guidelines for explosives transportation, dereliction of duty from MAXAM Company was the major cause of the painful loss of lives, various degrees of injuries and destruction of properties.

Dr. Owusu has opined that the incident could have been averted if due procedures were followed, hence all perpetrators need to be penalized to serve as deterrent to others. He has advised that strict adherence to responsible explosives conveyance and mining practices should be enforced in Ghana. The DAF truck that was transporting explosives from MAXAM company’s manufacturing plant in Tarkwa, Western Region to Chirano Gold Mines Ltd, Western-North Region, blew up the whole Apiatse community after colliding head-on with an oncoming motorcycle. After the collision, fire was ignited beneath the truck and the explosives detonated to cause the explosion. Presently, investigations are ongoing to ascertain the causes of the incident.

In his professional opinion, the astute mining expert believes that; disregard for standard operating procedures to be followed in transporting explosives in terms of safety, monitoring and supervision were not followed. He suggested that these violations might have occasioned the calamitous incident and he recommended corrective measures to avoid future recurrence. Also, he has cautioned that all perpetrators involved should be severely punished to serve as deterrent to others. Besides, he has insisted that MAXAM company’s insurance should pay for all compensations and again, bear the cost of the destruction, as it is done in some parts of the Western World.

The outspoken engineer made all these suggestions when he granted radio and television interviews with various media companies in Ghana, including JOY Prime News with Aisha Ibrahim, Adom TV News with Chief Jerry Forson, Okay FM programme with Afia Pokuaa (Vim Lady), Radio Gold News Analysis with Sena Nombo, Neat FM programme with Adakabre Frimpong Manso, Ahotor FM Simpieso Show with Emmanuel Martey (Alaska), Radio One (1) Political Show with Nana Addo, among others. Solomon has been crusading that irresponsible hazardous material transportation practices usually expose host communities to dangers; hence, education and sensitization outreach programmes should be introduced to the people in these areas.

The scholar further said, the Apiatse incident has exposed some of the lapses in Ghana’s Minerals and Mining Explosives Regulations, 2012 Legislative Instrument (LI 2177), which provides guidelines to reduce risks and also provides safe working environment. The regulations guide the conveyance, storage, possession, manufacturing and use of explosives for mining, quarrying and civil works. Unfortunately, the detailed procedure for the mode of escort for transporting explosives from one point to another is not provided in the legislative instrument. He has disclosed that it would have been difficult for the motorcycle operator to run into the explosives truck, if the requisite international standard protocols for escorting the truck on the highway had been followed.

The discerning mining professional has chastised MAXAM explosives company for taking advantage of the weaknesses in the LI 2177 and practiced substandard transportation of the hazardous materials, leading to the tragic disaster. He enlightened the public on some of the important globally accepted, standardized procedures and requirements for transporting explosives on the road, including the following:

1. One light vehicle in front of the explosives truck to warn other road users and clear the road. The vehicle should have the following requirements during the escorting process to signal warnings to oncoming vehicles, motorcycles or any object as follows:

a. The vehicle should have definite arrangements to ensure that the explosives truck has the right of way and avoid potential collision or impacts.

b. The indicator lights should be switched on.

c. A beacon light should be placed on top of the vehicle and switched on.

d. Red flag with big E written in black at the middle should be mounted.

e. The distance between the escort vehicle and the explosives truck should be at least 50m.

f. The speed should not exceed 60km/h.

2. The explosive truck in the middle should have the following requirements during the escort:

a. The compartment of the truck that contains the explosives should be internally lined with a non-inflammable treated wood.

b. The truck should have two (2) earthing chains which are adequately bonded to the chassis and maintained between the chassis and the ground, one at the front and one at the rear to avoid thunder struck.

c. The truck should be provided with two (2) fire extinguishers that are readily available for use and kept in good working order at all times.

d. The exhaust pipe of the truck should be fitted and directed in a manner that ensures that neither the pipe nor the exhaust gases pass under any part of the compartment used for carrying the explosives. In most cases, the exhaust opening is turned to the ground direction.

3. Another light vehicle driven behind the explosive truck to monitor and report any danger or fault to the transporting team:

a. The indicator lights should be switched on.

b. A beacon light should be placed on top of the vehicle and switched on

c. The distance between the escort vehicle and the explosives truck should be at least 50m.

During the transportation process, all the three vehicles should not exceed a speed of 60km/h and there should be communication coordination between the drivers. Surprisingly, the LI 2177 only mentions police escort without detailing the guidelines for the escort, as listed. Considering these steps, how could the MAXAM explosives truck collide head-on with a motorcycle, if there was a proper escort vehicle in front of the truck and moved 50m apart at a speed of 60km/h as described? Based on Solomon’s preliminary analysis, he has suspected that the first fault emanated from those who drafted and approved the LI 2177, stating that the document is full of loopholes. Also, he thinks that negligence from the Interior Minister, Chief Inspector of Mines at the Minerals Commission and the Management of MAXAM resulted in the tragic incident.

Going forward, the learned mining consultant has admonished the Minerals Commission and Parliament to review and amend the LI 2177 to meet the international standards for transporting explosives from a source to a destination. In order to conduct this exercise appropriately, he has proposed that a team from the Inspectorate Division under the Minerals Commission, Ghana Chamber of Mines and Independent Explosives and Policy Experts should be assembled to review, identify any gab(s) in the LI 2177 and recommend amendments. Other corrective actions he suggested include education and sensitization programmes from the National Center for Civic Education (NCCE), the Interior Ministry and the Media under sponsorships from the Explosives Companies, the Mining Companies and the Government.

Furthermore, he has emphasized that the DVLA should include lessons or trainings that can educate road users on cautions and signs associated with explosives or any hazardous material transported on the road. He recommended that expensive road safety violation charges and punishments should be introduced to minimize road accidents. Solomon has advised all road users to follow traffic rules and apply defensive driving skills at all times to save themselves, others and properties. Finally, he has admonished the government to enforce the traffic laws without discriminations to put everyone on his or her toes.