The miners’ survival status remains unknown, and recent news that the first underground chamber was empty has led to increasing call to save the miners by speed up operations.
It has been a month since eight mine workers–six Burkinabè, one Tanzanian, and one Zambian–went missing on April 16, after heavy rains caused flash floods at Trevali Mining Corporation’s Perkoa Mine in Sanguié Province, Burkina Faso.
The incident has forced the Canadian-owned zinc mine to halt operations. A rescue operation has been underway at the site, which is approximately four minutes’ drive west of the capital city, Ouagadougou. Based on media and government reports, here are six things about the incident that you need to know:
1. 24 miners worked in the underground mine and 16 survived. When flash floods hit the mine, the majority of underground workers were able to safely evacuate; the eight people who went missing were believed to be 520 meters (1,706 feet) below the surface at the time of the flooding. Ditil Moussa Palenfo, Trevali Perkoa’s country manager, told The Republic that as of April when the incident happened, 715 people work at the mine site.
2. Underground refuge chambers were created in case of emergencies for mine workers to seek safety. According to the company, there are two underground refuge chambers in case miners become stranded, but it was unknown if any of the missing workers were able to reach any of them when the incident happened. Both chambers are stocked with three weeks’ worth of food and water and are located 570 meters and 710 meters below the surface.
3. None of the mine workers was found in the first refuge chamber. As of May 14, rescue teams had reported reaching a depth of 580 meters. According to media reports, out of an estimated total of 165 million litres of water that settled underground, more than 55 million litres have been pumped out of the mine. Since the rescue operation started, Trevali built a road ramp, installed 5,000 meters of new pipes and provided more than 24 electric and diesel pumps.
4. The government of Burkina Faso requested international assistance in locating the missing miners by providing expert rescue resources. Albert Ouédraogo, the country’s prime minister, also blamed the disaster on the mine managers’ ‘irresponsibility’, claiming that flooding into the mine was caused by the use of open-air dynamite, which weakened the underground gallery. International advocates, such as MiningWatch Canada, have also called for accountability and highlighted the importance of corporate responsibility to ensure safety.
5. Six of the miners’ families have filed lawsuits against Trevali. Miners’ families have accused Trevali of ‘attempted manslaughter, endangering life, and failing to assist a person in danger.’ Brenda Mwamba, the wife of the Zambian trapped miner, told the BBC that communication at the mine had been appalling. Despite not joining other families to file a lawsuit, she accused Trevali’s mine managers in Burkina Faso of taking five days after the incident to contact her and failing to provide her with information about the mines’ dimensions and layouts since she arrived at the site from Zambia.
6. The Burkina Faso government has banned the mine managers from leaving the country while a judicial investigation into the incident is ongoing. According to Al Jazeera, Trevali is also working to determine the cause of the accident, while the company’s CEO stated in an interview with Reuters that they are working to understand the cause of the mine’s flooding to avoid future occurrences.
The miners’ survival status remains unknown, and recent news that the first underground chamber was empty has led to increasing call to save the miners by speed up operations. Family members remain optimistic and there is increased social media attention as a result. Trevali, in an email to The Republic stated that they are ‘busy with search of our 8 colleagues who are missing since the unfortunate event’, while running a 24-hour rescue operation⎈
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