Burkina Faso’s government has launched a judicial investigation into a flood at a zinc mine as efforts to rescue eight trapped workers enter a third week.
Heavy rainfall caused flash floods at the Perkoa mine on April 16, leaving eight workers – six from Burkina Faso, a Zambian and a Tanzanian – missing underground.
Canada-based Trevali Mining Corp has suspended operations at the mine, located 100km (60 miles) from the capital Ouagadougou, as search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
Burkina Faso Prime Minister Albert Ouedraogo said that 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 on Monday.
During a visit to the site at the weekend, Ouedraogo blamed “irresponsibility” by those in charge at the mine. He alleged that several days before the accident “dynamite was used on the open-air [part of the] mine, which weakened the [underground] gallery and enabled the flooding”.
The families of six miners have filed cases against persons unknown for attempted manslaughter, endangering life and failing to assist a person in danger.
The mining company, Trevali, said it had received no official communication but was aware of the prime minister’s comments.
“Senior management of Trevali remains at the Perkoa Mine and are overseeing the active dewatering and mine rehabilitation work,” said Jason Mercier, the company’s director of investor relations.
“Trevali continues to work at maximum capacity, 24 hours a day, to locate the missing workers,” he added.
In a previous statement, the company said that while most workers underground were able to safely evacuate, the eight missing workers were working below Level 520, which is 520m (1,706 feet) from the surface, at the time of the flooding.
The company said it is also investigating the cause of the accident.