A subcontractor of Toronto-based Kinross Gold Corp. K-T is under investigation in Ghana after one of its supply trucks collided with a motorcycle, causing a massive explosion in a residential area that reportedly killed many people in the West African country.
The accident happened on Thursday, in the village of Apiate, about 250 kilometres west of Ghana’s capital Accra, and about 120 kilometres from Kinross’s Chirano gold mine. The truck was carrying mining explosives and was en route to Chirano.
News reports in Ghana said that after the motorcyclist collided with the truck, an ensuing fire caused the explosives on board to detonate, resulting in the deaths of 17 people, and injuring dozens more.
Video posted on social media showed devastation akin to the aftermath of an earthquake, with fires burning, a giant crater and hundreds of buildings reduced to rubble.
On Twitter, Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, called the accident “truly sad, unfortunate and tragic.”
Police, armed forces and Ghana’s National Disaster Management Organization are involved in the cleanup and rescue effort.
“Our deepest condolences go out to all those impacted by this tragedy,” Louie Diaz, a spokesperson with Kinross wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “We will provide support to the response efforts and provide relief items to those affected.”
Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said it plans to investigate to see if the necessary regulations governing the transportation of explosives were followed.
The mining truck involved in the crash was operated by Maxam Corp. The privately-held Spanish company manufactures and transports mining explosives used for detonating rock. Apart from servicing Kinross’s Chirano mine in western Ghana, Maxam also supplies explosives to four other mines in the region.
Maxam did not respond to a request for comment.
When The Globe asked Mr. Diaz if Kinross could be exposed to any liability, since the accident involved its contractor, he declined comment, citing the continuing investigation.
Kinross shares closed down 2.3 per cent at $7.10 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.
The company had already been under the microscope owing to its exposure to Russia. There, tensions have risen exponentially over the past few weeks because of the country’s conflict with bordering Ukraine. Security experts fear the situation could tip into war. Kinross has a long history of operating in Russia, and its Kupol mine complex is one of its most profitable operations.
In an attempt to diversify its exposure away from risky jurisdictions such as Russia and countries in West Africa, Kinross late last year announced the acquisition of Canadian gold development firm Great Bear Resources Ltd. Kinross emerged the victor in a brisk bidding war for Great Bear that saw it go head-to-head with four other major mining companies.
A few years ago, Great Bear made a promising gold discovery in Red Lake, Ont., and it has been one of the top performing junior gold stocks in the world. The $1.8-billion Kinross is paying for Great Bear is one of the highest prices on record for a developer with no proven gold reserves.
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