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Rescue efforts for miners trapped underground for 33 days in Burkina Faso continue

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20 May, 2022IndustriALL affiliate, Federation des Travailleurs de la Metallurgie, De L’Or, de la Filature et du Textile, fears for the worst as there has be no contact with the eight trapped mineworkers at Perkoa Zinc mine for 32 days. Contact with the miners was lost when the Zinc mine was flooded on 16 April after heavy rains, trapping the miners 500 meters underground.

Hopes that the workers, six Burkinabe, a Tanzanian, and a Zambian, could have made it to the rescue chamber were dashed when the chamber was found empty. A rescue operation is in progress with reports indicating that millions of gallons of water have been pumped out from the mine. But the muddy water has made it difficult for the rescue operations.

Ouindpanga Ouedraogo, Federation des Travailleurs de la Metallurgie, general secretary, says:

“The rescue effort has always been a race against time, and we are devastated that no one was found in the rescue chamber. As unions we are always insisting on accident prevention through elimination of risk to avoid such disasters. We sympathize with the workers families who are anxiously waiting to hear what happened to their loved ones.”

The Burkinabe government has called for a judicial inquiry to investigate the flooding and find out whether the mining company is complying with the national laws on occupational health and safety. The government concurs with the unions that the adoption of safer work practices by mining companies will improve safety in the mining industry in the country.
Trevali, a Canadian base metals mining company with operations in Burkina Faso, Canada, Namibia, and Peru, owns the mine, and says it is working with the government in the rescue efforts. Operations at the mine were suspended after the flooding.

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says:

“Multinational mining companies have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for workers, and for conducting risk assessments to prevent accidents. The flooding of the zinc mine at Perkoa could have been prevented through early warning systems and mine safety protocols. There is also a case to be made for Burkina Faso to ratify ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. The convention provides an international framework which specifies that employers should eliminate risks, control them at the source, and adopt safe work systems.”