Mining executive fined following deadly flood at mine in Burkina Faso
The director of Perkoa’s zinc mine in Burkina Faso was found guilty of manslaughter, fined $3,000 and given a suspended 24-month prison sentence following a flood at the underground mine that killed eight miners in April.
Hein Frey, of Canadian company Trevali, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted on charges of illegal mining activities, failure to comply with regulations on occupational health and safety in mines, endangering the lives of others and failure to assist a person in danger.
A second executive, Daryl Christensen, an Australian national working with for Trevali's contractor Byrnecut, was handed a 12-month suspended sentence and fined $1,500.
The BBC reported that some in Burkina Faso view the sentence as too lenient.
Trevali has issued a statement but did not comment on the sentences. It said it was still negotiating with the authorities to resume mining at the Perkoa zinc mine.
The trial began on August 24 following a complaint by the families of the miners from Burkina Faso.
The eight miners were working at a depth of more than 500 m (1,640 ft) when they became trapped by torrential rain in April. In less than an hour, 125 mm (4.9 in.) of rain fell - five times the average monthly amount.
Despite frantic rescue efforts, it took until late May for the first bodies of the miners to be recovered from the mine, which lies about 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital, Ouagadougou.
In June, the last body was recovered, following some 66 days of searching.
There was controversy at the time of the incident, with rescue operations only getting under way following protests and a sit-in at a government building at a nearby town five days after the floods.
It took rescue teams 31 days to reach the first rescue chamber at the mine in which the missing miners might have sought refuge.
The zinc mine had two rescue chambers stocked with food, water and oxygen, and loved ones had desperately hoped the miners could have made it to one of those safely.
Millions of litres of water were pumped out and specialized equipment was brought in from Ghana and South Africa to help at the mine, that has a depth of 710 m (2,330 ft).
Trevali said that during the rescue efforts, a road ramp into the mine was rebuilt and 5,000 m (16,404 ft) of new pipes installed, along with more than 24 electric and diesel pumps.
But after a day-and-night search lasting more than a month, on 25 May rescue teams found the the first four bodies of the miners.
Photo: Trevali’s Perkoa’s zinc mine in Burkina Faso. Credit, Trevali.