Burkina Faso: Race to save eight miners trapped for two weeks

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Rescue workers are racing against the clock to save eight miners who have been trapped for two weeks in a Canadian-operated mine in Burkina Faso, relatives and workers told AFP Monday.

Trevali Mining Corp. announced on April 16 that eight miners -- six from Burkina, a Zambian and a Tanzanian -- were missing following a "flood" underground at a zinc mine at Perkoa, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Ouagadougou.

"A rescue operation was launched immediately with the help of the fire brigade and military engineers," a worker there told AFP.

Rescue efforts have focused on trying to pump out the floodwater, which followed heavy rain, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They've been trapped underground for two weeks," said Andre Bamouni, a relative of one of the eight.

"We have had no news," he said. "We have no information about the search or the chances of finding them alive."

He said the situation looked critical because their chances of survival "are falling day by day, but we can (still) hope."

Prime Minister Albert Ouedraogo, in a visit to the site at the weekend, 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."

Ouedraogo said there would be an inquiry to find out who was responsible. Mine officials would not be allowed to leave the country in the meanwhile, he added.

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 fate of the miners has lit up social networks with calls for solidarity and efforts to save the men.

Mining activities at Perkoa, Burkina Faso's sole zinc mine, have been halted.

Vancouver-based Trevali is a metals mining company with four production operations, in Canada, Peru, Namibia and Burkina.

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