Burkina Faso court has found two executives working for Canadian mining firm Trevali guilty of manslaughter, following a flooding disaster in April that killed eight miners.
Hein Frey, of Canadian company Trevali, was fined $3,000 (£2,600) and given a suspended 24-month prison sentence. The 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.
Frey, from South Africa, was found guilty of “illegal mining activities, failure to comply with regulations on occupational health and safety in mines, endangering the lives of others, failure to assist a person in danger and manslaughter”.
The trial began on 24 August following a complaint by the families of the miners from Burkina Faso. The eight miners were working at a depth of more than 500m when they became trapped by torrential rain in April. In less than an hour, 125mm 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 Perkoa zinc mine, which lies about 100km (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.
But when the chamber was opened, none of the men – one Tanzanian, one Zambian and six from Burkina Faso – were there. 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 710m.
Trevali said that during the rescue efforts, a road ramp into the mine was rebuilt and 5,000m 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.