On Monday, 1st November, 2010, at 1700hrs, Koidu Holdings carried out a blast on Pipe-2 of the Koidu Kimberlite Project (KKP) mining concession. Unfortunately, the blast effect produced unexpected ‘fly rocks’, with some fragments blasted beyond the 250m safety zone. This resulted in minor damages to 12 houses and alleged injuries to five people.
This incident has generated a lot of interest from the media, civil society as well as the general populace. This has resulted in conflicting and speculative reports regarding the extent of the damage caused by the blast and the severity and number of injuries. The management of Koidu Holdings takes this matter very seriously and therefore, in the interest of transparency of public information, the following is a comprehensive outline of the facts related to the incident:
On Saturday, 30th October, 2010, in keeping with our blasting procedures, we published a blast notification to inform members of the Koidu community that we intended carrying out a blast on Monday, 1st November, 2010. The notification was sent to all town chiefs, section chiefs and the paramount chief of Tankoro Chiefdom. The notification was also sent to the Koidu New Sembehun City Council, the District Council, the security apparatus in the Municipality, schools and radio stations for onward transmission to the public.
At 16:hr00 on Monday, 1st November, 2010, an hour before the blast, Koidu Holdings set off the siren to notify the surrounding communities, as usual, that the blast was going to take place in one hour’s time. Once the siren was set off, Koidu Holdings commenced evacuation of the people residing within the 250m safety zone.
And at exactly 1700hrs, the blast was carried out. Following the blast, as is normal procedure, Koidu Holdings sent out its Community Relations team around to assess the outcome of the blast. This team looked to ascertain whether there were damages to any property. During this exercise, our Community Relations team found that the fly rocks had exceeded the demarcated safety zone and had damaged 12 houses. In addition, they were confronted with five claims of injuries.
In response to this unfortunate occurrence, our ambulance, which was on standby, immediately conveyed the said injured to our clinic for medical attention. Upon arrival, they were assessed by our medical team who confirmed that other than the shock of what happened, the five people were fine. To get an independent opinion, Koidu Holdings summoned the government doctor, Dr. Abdulai Barbu to assess the patients. His findings confirmed what our medical team had found earlier. However one of the five people was complaining of shoulder pain. As a result, it was decided that she should stay at the clinic overnight for observation, to be sent for X-ray the following day. The other four were sent home by their own accord.
Meanwhile, as Koidu Holdings was busy trying to ascertain the extent of the incident and the cause(s), personnel of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) through Eastern Radio reported that a flyer rock from our blast had killed an elderly woman and several other people were seriously injured, which was not the case. Understandably, the community reacted angrily to this news and suddenly, our gates were flooded by angry relatives. It took the intervention of Koidu Holdings managerial staff to show them their relatives to prove that nothing was seriously wrong. This appeased any worries and concerns they had and they returned to their homes.
In the early hours of Tuesday, 2nd November, 2010, having gathered the facts, we put out a public notice in both Krio and Kono to explain to the people exactly what happened, what we had done and the actions we were going to take to rectify the situation. We also apologised to the community for what happened and promised to do our best to adopt the necessary corrective measures. Immediately after that, we sent the woman who was complaining of shoulder pain for an X-ray and despatched a team of carpenters and masons to rehabilitate the damaged houses. We used 17 CI Sheets, a tarpaulin and three and a half bags of cement to rectify the problems with the 12 houses. We completed the exercise by mid afternoon of the same day. In the meantime, the X-ray result of the woman who was claiming to have injured her shoulder proved that nothing was wrong with her shoulder.
Koidu Holdings currently putting together a report detailing the cause(s) of the incident and the measures we are going to put in place to avert any reoccurrence of such an event. The report will be submitted to the Ministry of Mineral Resources. In addition, officials from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and personnel from the Sierra Leone Environment Protection Agency (SLEPA) were due to arrive at the mine yesterday evening, to assess the situation independently and make recommendations.
Contrary to media reports claiming massive destruction of houses and fatal injuries to many people, this represents what happened and the current state of things. Koidu Holdings remains regretful of this incident and the Company is going to do everything possible to prevent anything like this happening again. Given the unsubstantiated media reports, Koidu Holdings has thought it necessary to provide the public with the facts, in order to demonstrate operational transparency.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.