Miner dies in Mahdia pit collapse

A mining pit cave in at Tiger River, Mahdia, Region 8 has claimed the life of one man and injured another, just one month after a similar tragedy at Pepper Creek resulted in the deaths of 10 men.

Orlando Archer, 25 years of Sophia, was the last of the men pulled from the open pit after a wall collapsed. Speaking to Stabroek News, Archer’s mother said that she was informed that her son’s heart was still beating but he had ingested large amounts of sand and was pronounced dead at the Mahdia Hospital.

The accident was said to have happened yesterday mid-morning. Leonard Persaud of Sophia was also injured but was treated and discharged from the Mahdia Hospital. Stabroek News could not confirm how many men were buried in the pit collapse, however Archer’s mother did state that her son was the last one to be pulled from the dense soil.

Orlando Archer
Orlando Archer

Stabroek News was informed that the rescue efforts were quick. Owner of the mining operation, former Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Commissioner, Edward Hopkinson told Stabroek News that he was still awaiting reports from the General Manager as to what occurred.

A team comprising the Guyana Police Force and GGMC officers was dispatched yesterday to investigate what happened and to compile a report.

Hopkinson stated that he had two dredges in the vicinity with one working approximately 200 feet from where the cave-in occurred.

The GGMC in its preliminary findings on the May 17, Pepper Creek tragedy said that there was a breach of safety practices.

Hopkinson also held the mining permit for the land where that collapse occurred but it was being worked on by someone else. Hopkinson is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the operator of that site, Imran Khan.

Last week, the GGMC said that they are unable to file any charges until the injunction obtained by operator Imran Khan against the regulatory agency prior to the incident is discharged.

Commissioner of the GGMC Rickford Vieira had told Stabroek News that the police would need to proceed with any formal criminal charges.

Expressing regret at the loss of life in the May 17 mine collapse, Hopkinson had set out in a statement to Stabroek News how Khan, he said, has been able to thwart his efforts to have him removed. Khan has not spoken to the press about the terms of his arrangement for the mining permit.

On 7 August, 2013, Hopkinson said, he notified the GGMC about Khan’s unauthorised use of the Doosan excavator and other breaches of the mining regulations. Hopkinson said that this included not having his workers’ Mining Privileges en-dorsed by him and therefore not being entitled to be on the property. Hopkinson said this resulted in the GGMC issuing Cease Work Orders on 8 August, 2013.

Hopkinson said he came to the conclusion that Khan was using the legal proceedings and mediation to continue to operate on the property without permission.

“This matter has now been in the Courts for almost two years during which time Khan has been allowed to mine my property without my permission or that of the GGMC and has extracted gold, a non-renewable resource, to which he is not entitled,” Hopkinson lamented.

In February 2015, Hopkinson said, Khan began to operate a third excavator, another Doosan, on the property without his permission or that of the GGMC. He said both of the Doosan excavators are visible in an image published in Stabroek News on 20 May, 2015.

Michael Gardener, 26; Brian Brittlebank, 46, of Wismar; Linden and Raymond August of Dartmouth, Essequibo; Leland Jones and his nephew Jason Trotman; father and son Glen aka Frank and Vic Bernard; Trevon Philips and Esmond Martin all perished after the pit rapidly caved in from the top, covering the crew and their equipment.

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