An opencast mine in Burkina Faso, better known for its gold mines. (File/DeAgostini/Getty Images)
- A South African manager and a colleague from Australia have been given suspended sentences and fines for their part in the deaths of eight miners in Burkina Faso.
- SA-trained Hein Frey was fined around R50,000, while Daryl Christensen was given half of that.
- The two were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, mining company Trevali confirmed on Thursday.
- In April, miners were trapped underground in the Perkoa zinc mine after a flash flood.
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In April, the Perkoa zinc mine in Burkina Faso flooded, leaving eight workers in the underground shafts beneath an open pit unable to reach the surface. It took over a month for the bodies of four to be found, and the last body was not recovered until June.
Now a South African has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in their deaths, and sentenced to pay a fine of approximately R50,000.
Trained in mining at the University of Johannesburg and in business in Stellenbosch, Hein Frey will soon be in prison after a court handed him a two-year suspended sentence.
Australian colleague Daryl Christensen, with contract company Byrnecut, was given a one-year suspended jail term and a fine of approximately R25,000.
The verdicts shocked some in Burkina Faso for their leniency, though the miners’ families took a more pragmatic stance, emphasizing the victory of all those held responsible for the incident, and praising the massive effort that has gone into recovering the bodies. .
Trevali Mining, the company that owns the mine, confirmed the verdicts on Thursday and said it is still investigating the cause of the flooding.
Trevali plans to reopen the mine.
More than 125mm of rain fell in the area around the mine in less than an hour, five times more than the region’s average per month. The water broke through two banks before rushing into the mine shaft.
Trevali was heavily criticized for his lack of preparedness for disaster. The mine had two containment chambers, but rescuers relied on heavy equipment brought in from as far as South Africa to pump out hundreds of millions of gallons of water.
Burkina Faso’s government banned Trevali managers from leaving the country in May, even though rescue efforts were still underway.
Frey and Christensen were reportedly arrested in August.
Earlier this month, Trevali announced it would be delisting from the Toronto Stock Exchange, weeks after it filed for protection from its creditors.
The Rosh Pinah sinker mine in Namibia remains in operation.