Bad News for Rescue of Trapped Miners in Burkina Faso

The bodies of four miners in Burkina Faso have been found after 39 days of an ongoing rescue effort. Eight miners in total became trapped in a mine at Perkoa after unexpected torrential rains last month, with rescuers working around the clock to reach them ever since.

Eight miners – comprising six Burkinabès, a Zambian and a Tanzanian – became trapped in the mine by unexpected floodwaters on April 16th. 125mm of rain fell in under an hour – five times the normal amount for April.

Since then, rescue efforts by both the operating company, Trevali, and the government, have pumped tens of millions of litres of water from the mine in hopes of reaching the men. Trevali’s CEO Ricus Grimbeek has said the company has brought in specialist equipment from Ghana and South Africa, and experts from around the world, including Australia.

Relatives of the miners have been gathered in the nearby town of Réo, holding out hope that the miners were able to shelter in rescue chambers and survive. The wife of one of the missing miners spoke to the BBC, saying “When I go home and I see my children, I remember how they used to greet my husband when he would come back from work, and how he used to behave with them. I dread going back home now…We will stay here until our husbands get out of the hole.”

Location of Trevali mine at Perkoa.

The mine has two rescue chambers – also known as survival rooms – which are sealed off, and meant to provide workers with oxygen, food and water. The first chamber is located at 560 metres underground, and was reached by rescuers after 31 days of work. But when the chamber was opened, no miners were found inside.

Unfortunately, rescuers found four bodies in recesses near the chamber yesterday, almost 40 days after the flooding. Friends and family of the miners have become disconsolate. “Many have tears in their eyes, everybody is disappointed. Hope is gone now,” says Bama Antoine, a spokesman for the families.

Climate Anomalies Plaguing Africa

Although most African countries contribute very little to emissions (and have done so historically), many suffer disproportionate damage under climate change due to poor socioeconomic circumstance.

Burkina Faso is part of a region of Africa known as the Sahel, which marks the transitional belt between the Sahara and the Sudanian savannah. Experts from the UN have called the Sahel one of the most environmentally degraded regions on the planet, with temperature increases estimated at 1.5 times higher than the rest of the world.

Over the next few decades, global warming is expected to melt most of Africa’s glaciers, and erratic rain patterns are already being felt across the continent. South Africa experienced devastating floods in April, with 450 dead, thousands homeless, and entire buildings and roads destroyed. Southeastern Africa was dealt five tropical storms in just six weeks in the first half of 2022.

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, ill-equipped to handle climate anomalies like the mine flooding. And 80% of its population is reliant on rain-fed agriculture, making them especially vulnerable to changing rainfall under climate change.

Rescue efforts at Perkoa are continuing, with relatives holding out hope the remaining miners were able to make it to the second rescue chamber at 710 metres.

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