Burkina Faso’s government has launched a judicial investigation into a flood at a zinc mine as efforts to rescue eight trapped workers enter its third week.
Eight workers remain unaccounted for following the evacuation of an underground area at Trevali Mining’s Perkoa mine in Burkana Faso. Search and rescue efforts continue. Intense rainfall in the early morning of April 16 resulted in a flash flood that breached protective berms surrounding the open pit.
Mining and milling operations at Perkoa remain suspended for the foreseeable future and the company said it is working closely with Burkinabe authorities as it investigates the cause of the flood event following heavy rainfall of approximately 125 mm (10 in.) of rain that fell in less than an hour.
“Our primary focus has been, and will remain, the search and rescue of the missing eight miners and our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues who have been impacted,” Trevali President and CEO Ricus Grimbeek said. “We have been working tirelessly with the support of various government agencies and officials who have made numerous visits to the mine site and are working in coordination with rescue efforts. We have also received tremendous support from the extended mining community in Burkina Faso, who have volunteered highly trained personnel and equipment for use in the search and rescue.”
In the days following the flash flood, Perkoa employees and Trevali management have continued to work with Byrnecut, Trevali’s mining contractor at the Perkoa mine, to support the families and community members of the missing workers. Management from both companies are in daily contact with family members of the missing eight workers to provide assistance, support and updates on the rescue operation.
This rain event occurred outside the usual rainy season, which is June to September. The underground operations are accessed by a portal in the Perkoa open pit, which was surrounded by two separate berms that were breached by the flash flood. As the water entered the mine, electricity and communications underground were lost. While most of the workers underground or preparing to enter the mine were able to safely evacuate, eight workers remain unaccounted for.
After flooding stopped, the water level in the mine settled at approximately Level 520. The search above this level was completed as of April 16. Mine depth is to Level 710.
Burkina Faso Prime Minister Albert Ouedraogo said managers of the mine have been banned from leaving the country while investigations are under way into the cause of the accident.
“Precautionary measures have been taken to prevent the persons in charge of the mine from leaving the country and instructions have been given firmly to the minister of security for this,” a statement from the PM’s office said.