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Spanish firm fined $6 million for Ghana truck blast that killed 13

A view shows debris of houses and other buildings that were destroyed when a vehicle carrying mining explosives detonated along a road in Apiate in Ghana on January 21, 2022. [Reuters]

The Spanish company in charge of a truck that exploded and killed 13 people last month en route to an internationally-run gold mine in Ghana violated storage and transport laws and has been fined $6 million, the lands ministry said on Tuesday.

The truck was transporting explosives owned by Madrid-based Maxam Corp to the Chirano gold mine, run by Toronto-based Kinross Gold Corporation, when it collided with a motorbike, caught fire and exploded, levelling a roadside village and injuring at least 100 people. 

Maxam, in its first statement since the Jan. 21 disaster, denied responsibility, blaming a local contractor.

Ghana's Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said in a statement: "The Ministry has established regulatory breaches on the part of Maxam...in respect to the manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives."

It did not provide specific details about which laws were broken or how they contributed to the accident.

The government gave Maxam a $1 million administrative fine for breaching regulations and imposed a $5 million fee for damages, to be paid out in monthly instalments.

In its statement, Maxam said it had contracted a local company called Arthanns Logistics to transport the explosives. The code violations were the fault of Arthanns, Maxam said.

It said that none of the violations contributed to the explosion and that it would pay the fines to continue operating.

Arthanns, whose full name is Arthanns Transport Services, did not respond to requests for comment. It and another local firm called Jocyderk Logistics are being investigated for possible ties to the explosion, the lands ministry said. The actions of unspecified officials are also being reviewed.

Eight witnesses told Reuters at the time that the truck was on fire for 45 minutes before it exploded, in which time residents were allowed to walk to the scene to take photos and video without police or firemen holding them back.

They said that it was left to the truck driver to warn residents to leave the scene immediately.

Police said the truck had been travelling with a police escort, which warned people to move away ahead of the blast.