By Geoffrey York and Niall McGee, The Globe and Mail
A Canadian-owned mining company and two executives at its zinc mine in Burkina Faso have been convicted of involuntary homicide in connection with a flooding disaster that killed eight mine workers.
The flooding, which followed a sudden torrential rainfall at the site in April, trapped the workers underground and led to a 66-day search that eventually found them dead, several hundred metres below ground, after 165 million litres of water had been pumped out of the mine.
The disaster sparked outrage in Burkina Faso and led to charges of involuntary homicide against the mine operator and two executives at the mine, which is owned by Vancouver-based Trevali Mining Corp. TV-T N/Ano change
Trevali says it was caught unawares by downpour that flooded Burkina Faso mine
Mine manager Hein Frey, vice-president of operations at Trevali, was given a 24-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of about $4,000 in the court ruling on Wednesday. He is South African.
Daryl Christensen, of the Trevali contractor Byrnecut, was given a 12-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $2,000. He is reportedly Australian.
Mine operator Nantou Mining, which is 90 per cent owned by Trevali, was also convicted and fined about $4,000.
Analysts said the court verdict on Wednesday was significant. “It is extremely unusual for mining companies and executives to be charged, much less found guilty,” said Jamie Kneen, a researcher at Ottawa-based organization MiningWatch Canada.
He noted, however, that the amount of the court-ordered fines was “trivial” for a mining company. “While I think this case may serve as a warning, I don’t think it will be a real deterrent,” he told The Globe.
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