PERKOA, Burkina Faso –
Executives at Canada-based Trevali Mining Corp said the company was caught in a torrential downpour during Burkina Faso’s dry season last month, trapping eight men at its underground perkoa zinc mine.
Rescue efforts have continued since the April 16 flood, but there have been no communications with the missing miners and it is not known if anyone survived.
“Obviously, given the dry season, we’re not expecting rain and we’ve had an absolute downpour,” said Hein Frey, Trevali’s vice president of operations, adding that the water crossed one of their bridges and breached safety barriers.
“Not only are we affected, the communities around us are also affected by totally unexpected rain,” he said in an interview with Reuters at the scene.
The company immediately called for help and the next day other mining companies in Burkina Faso sent rescue teams and pumps, Frey said. Water is still being pumped out of the mine.
While most workers were safely evacuated, the eight missing were below Level 520, which is 520 meters (1,706 feet) from the surface, at the time of the flooding, the company said.
Below this level are two security chambers filled with food and water, but it is not known if any of the men were able to reach them.
“There’s always hope, but we also have to be realistic,” Trevali CEO Ricus Grimbeek said in a separate interview with Reuters.
“These chambers are not designed to be submerged in water. The chambers are designed for accidents on the ground and in toxic environments like smoke,” he said.
The company and the government of Burkina Faso have launched investigations into the cause of the accident.
“We need to understand what we need to do in the future so that what happened here never happens again,” Grimbeek said.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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