The bodies of another two missing workers were found at a British Columbia mining company’s zinc mine in Burkina Faso on Saturday.
Trevali Mining Corp., based in Vancouver, has now reported six of eight miners who disappeared after a catastrophic flood at its Perkoa Mine in April have been found dead.
All have been found on the Level 580 of the mine, where a “significant amount” of debris and machinery has accumulated, according to the company. The mine extends to Level 710, 710 metres beneath the surface.
“We all grieve the loss of our colleagues,” Jason Mercier, director of Trevali’s investor relations, told Global News on Monday. “Out of respect for privacy of the workers’ families and friends, Trevali will not be publicly disclosing the names of the workers.”
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The Perkoa Mine, located roughly 120 km from the capital of Ouagadougou, flooded with heavy and unseasonable rainfall on April 16. About 125 mm fell within an hour, overcoming the two berms that surrounded the open pit.
To date, some 91 million litres of water have been pumped out of the mine, and more than 4,100 metres of the decline ramp have been rehabilitated.
In its Monday statement, Trevali said it expects to locate the remaining two missing workers somewhere below Level 580. The search and dewatering efforts, it added, continue around the clock.
“In conjunction with the mining contractor, families have been offered financial as well as mental health support and other benefits to help support the families’ needs during this difficult time,” wrote Mercier.
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The disaster remains under investigation by both Trevali and the Burkina Faso government. The West African nation has also imposed temporary travel restrictions on some of Trevali’s foreign employees.
In response to allegations that the use of explosives on parts of the mine prior to the flash flooding event weakened the underground gallery, enabling the flooding, Trevali responded, “It is premature to reach any conclusions until those investigations are complete.”
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Explosive devices are used at many mines almost daily, it added.
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Rainy season in Burkina Faso normally lasts between June and October.
Mercier told Global News that flood mitigation plans were in place at the Perkoa Mine, which has not experienced any comparable flash flooding event since the operation began in 2013.
Trevali initially searched for the eight missing workers in an underground refuge chamber, designed to accommodate workers trapped in a hazardous environment, but didn’t locate anyone.
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MiningWatch Canada, an Ottawa-based advocacy group, expressed concerns Monday with “how unprepared” the company was for the event, critiquing the length of time it took to bring in all the equipment needed to pump out the mine.
It doesn’t usually rain that much at once but it can,” said its co-founder and communications coordinator Jamie Kneen
“On the one hand I think there may be a measure of climate instability … but at the same time, in the mining business, it’s a dangerous business and people have worked hard over the years to try and make it as safe as possible, and part of that is trying to be prepared for whatever comes along.”
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The Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) did not respond to a request for comment on this story by deadline. The CORE can initiate investigations into the conduct of Canadian companies in the garment and resource extraction sector abroad, and review complaints about possible human rights abuses.
Canadian mining companies operate under the laws of the country where their mines are located.
“In a way it underlines the absence of any other oversight as well,” said Kneen. “Canadian government officials have not expressed concern about any of this.”
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Trevali owns 90 per cent of the Perkoa Mine, 90 per cent of the Rosh Pinah Mine in Namibia, and all of the Caribou Mine in northern New Brunswick. It also has a 44-per cent interest in the Gergarub Project in Namibia.
The company said Monday it is in regular communications with the Burkinabe authorities, and is receiving assistance from the country’s mining community.
The Burkina Faso National Fire Brigade has been on site at Perkoa since shortly after the disaster, along with Trevali’s search and rescue teams, and those of another mining company in the country.
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