Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Falling rocks kill 'miners'

Disaster strikes as Porgera locals dig for gold




TWO illegal gold miners were killed and four others were injured by falling rocks at the Porgera gold mine’s open-cut pit in Enga last Friday, The National reports.

According to reports from Porgera yesterday, the injured are recovering at the Porgera hospital.

“They risked their lives going to steal gold at the restricted mine,” an official said from Porgera.

The two dead men were identified as Pair Daniel, 22, from Ubis Karkar area in the Kandep district, and Tarai Iapara, in his 30s, from Tukusanda in the Laiagam district, both in Enga.

Larop Kepen, an illegal miner who was among the group, told authorities that the two were killed at the bottom of the bench while others were hit by the falling rocks and received serious injuries to their legs, arms and head.

Kopen said that many rocks were falling and they had to run for their lives but the two were late to escape and died after they were hit by the rocks.

Porgera police were contacted but said that they had not received any report or complaint about the fatalities and, therefore, could not comment.

The mining township’s Paiam Hospital chief Dr Granda Granada confirmed receiving the bodies of two men and placing them at the morgue last Saturday morning.

He also confirmed receiving and attending to four others who had sustained injuries.

Granada said one of four had his limbs amputated because it could not be fixed; the other three were assisted by doctors at the hospital and were recovering.

Mark Fisher, the executive general manager of owner Barrick PNG Ltd told The National yesterday that trespassing was a problem which the company had taken all available approaches to discourage by educating the local people not to venture into the restricted mine area.

He said many different approaches had been taken by the company to educate the people but nothing had changed.

“It is an unfortunate situation and also a difficult situation.

“We have used numerous attempts to educate the communities through the local radio station and the company’s communication unit to disseminate messages to educate them of the dangers of going to the mine site but that was still lacking,” Fisher said.

He said that the company even fenced the entire special mine lease area but people continued to take the risk and trespass.

Regular incursions by illegal miners into the open pit, the ore stockpiles and the waste areas at Porgera are common even though people are warned of the dangers of illegal mining and the risks of accessing the pit with no appropriate safety measures in place.

In recent years, criminal behaviour in and around the mine had become much more aggressive and had often involved armed individuals. 

Frequently they enter the mine site in large groups prepared to confront security personnel, who are responsible for the safety of the mine and its employees.

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