Joe Singh to head independent probe into latest mining death

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President David Granger has ordered that an independent inquiry be conducted into the death of 19-year-old miner, Trentan Sebastion, who was on Monday afternoon killed at Konawaruk, Mahdia, Backdam, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), after the mining pit in which he was working collapsed, pinning him under slush.

Major General (Rtd) Joe Singh
Major General (Rtd) Joe Singh

Acting Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Mr Newell Dennison, this morning announced that Major General (retired) Joseph Singh has been named to conduct the inquiry. He said the GGMC has already commenced arrangements for the sessions which are expected to commence by the end of this week in Mahdia.

In the meantime, Dennison said no work is permitted at the location and officers of the GGMC continue in their efforts to monitor operations in the area and appeal to miners to embrace a safety foremost culture while operating.

Sebastion, a pitman, along with four others were at the time working on a dredge owned by Sherwin Grenada who resides at Westminster Parfaite Harmony, when the tragedy occurred.

The deceased was reportedly jetting the mining face when undercut material fell in his direction and he was unable to escape its path. He was overcome before he could be extracted and was pronounced dead at the Mahdia Hospital where he was examined.

Investigators from the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) have been dispatched to the area.

ILLEGAL OPERATION

Meanwhile, the GGMC in a statement Monday, said the mining operation where the incident occurred was operating without the requisite approval.

“It was also reported that the dredge was operating on property without permission and for which an order to cease work (CWO) was issued,” the GGMC stated.

The GGMC says the accident comes at a time when as recent as the mid-February 2016, it conducted Mines Safety Compliance Tour in the Potaro and Konawaruk areas, where several CWOs were issued due to unsafe operations in the Mahdia Redhole, Whitehole and St Elizabeth areas.

The GGMC added that despite regulatory compliance tours by its officers in the Cuyuni District, “miners continued to have a casual attitude to safe mines practices.”

Region Eight has seen its fair share of deadly mining pit collapses over the years.

MINING DEATHS COI

A mining pit collapse at Mowasi Backdam, Region Eight, which claimed the lives of 10 miners back in May 2015, led President David Granger to establish a Commission of Inquiry to probe mining accidents.

The report highlighted that there have been, over a 15-month period, 28 deaths, most of them coming from pitfall cave-ins.

It revealed that from 2012 to 2015, 62 miners, particularly young men, lost their lives on the job.

These accidents were said to be caused by negligence; especially with regards to safe mining practices, including shortcuts taken by workers, who sometimes treasured their finds over their own lives.

The CoI determined there was a pervading culture of laxness towards safety and that clear rules must be applied and enforced.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The report recommended that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) institute the proper framework in order to decrease the number of future accidents.

It was revealed that whenever an accident occurred, the available emergency mechanism – the search and rescue and recovery – was inadequate and would need proper definition and manning.

The report also stated that there was poor reporting of these accidents and most times, the GGMC would act on a report heard or seen in parts of the media.

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