Burkinabe officials remain cautiously optimistic as the struggle to free eight miners trapped in a zinc mine enters its third week.
A government delegation visited the Canadian-based Trevali Mining Corp zinc mine near the city of Perkoa on Thursday, May 12th. On April 16, eight miners were stranded after the mine’s subterranean portion flooded due to heavy rains experienced in the area. Bassolma Bazié, Minister of Public Services, discussed how the rescue mission, which is in its third week, was progressing.
“We need to get to that refuge chamber quickly and then check it out. We also checked the refuge room that has already been released where no one was found, if truly the conditions that they described outside are found inside as we have seen, we can only hope,” Bazié said.
As rescuers continue their attempt to pump water out of the mine, the families of the miners — six Burkinabe, one Zambian, and one Tanzanian — continue to press for accountability.
It’s unclear whether those digging deeper than 520 meters (1,706 feet) found the two accessible refuge rooms. The mine’s Canadian owners said search personnel is working 24 hours a day at the site, which is roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the capital Ouagadougou. Specialized equipment has been sent in from Ghana and South Africa to help with the rescue attempts at the 710m-deep mine. Trevali Mining claims that 32 million liters of water have been drained out of the mine so far, allowing rescuers to reach a depth of 550 meters.
“At first, we noticed a certain carelessness on the part of the mines-operator therefore we had to raise our voice and we called on the authorities and, in turn, they contacted the mining company, and that was the game-changer,” Antoine Bama, a spokeswoman for the victims’ families explains.
The fate of these Miners
The emergency team traveled to Perkoa, west of Ouagadougou, on Wednesday, May 11th. The rescue mission was supposed to complete on Thursday, May 5th, however, equipment failures have caused the team’s objectives to be further delayed.
The case has provoked outrage in Burkina Faso, with rescue operations beginning five days after the initial flooding. The rescue operations are said to be a result of protests and a sit-in at a government facility in a neighboring town. The incident is being investigated by the authorities and the mine managers are not permitted to leave the country.
Trevali Mining CEO Ricus Grimbeek stated that the mining company works closely with all ranks of government and values their support. “We welcome the decision by the government to move its crisis management committee nearer to the mine site to better include family members of the missing workers and facilitate closer collaboration as we rapidly work to locate the missing individuals,” he said in a statement. Trevali reports that during the rescue attempts, a road ramp into the mine was repaired, and 5,000m of new pipelines, as well as more than 24 electric and diesel pumps, were installed.
In a group prayer session, Sylvie Bama, the wife of one of the trapped miners, said “We have hope. We know they will come back. We’re really counting on God.”