A court in Burkina Faso has found two employees of Canadian mining company Trevali Mining Corp. guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a flash flood in April killed eight miners at the company’s Perkoa mine in the West African nation.
Both executives, who were detained last month, received suspended sentences. Trevali’s Perkoa mine manager was fined US$3,000 and given a 24-month prison sentence, and a manager from Byrnecut Offshore Pty. Ltd., the company’s mining contractor, was handed a 12-month sentence, a Trevali official confirmed.
In response to the judicial decision, Trevali’s director of investor relations, Jason Mercier, said in a statement that the company was “grateful for the support … it received from the local communities and from our employees at Perkoa who attended the hearing and were at court today.”
“Since the flood, Trevali has done everything possible to prepare for a potential restart of operations, including keeping people employed to support our workers, their families, and the local communities,” he added.
In August, Trevali said it was working with its legal team to release the individuals detained pending a trial on charges related to the flooding event at Perkoa.
Flash floods caused by unseasonal rainfall on April 16 breached the Perkoa mine. The company spent the next two months pumping out about 137 million litres of water.
The bodies of the eight workers were discovered during the cleanup operation between mid-May and mid-June. Initially, Trevali said it hoped the missing workers would be found in the mine’s refuge chamber; however, the chamber was found intact and empty once the rescue team reached the room located more than 500 metres below the surface in mid-May.
The manslaughter charges exacerbate a difficult period for Trevali, which is focused on producing zinc, a metal Canada has included in its list of critical minerals and required for the nation’s push towards a sustainable economy.
Earlier this month, the company said its common shares would be de-listed from the Toronto Stock Exchange from Oct. 3. The trading of its shares has been suspended since Aug. 22, when the company filed an application for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).
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CCAA allows companies to restructure and carry on their business while avoiding the “social and economic consequences of bankruptcy.”
Trevali failed to make a mandatory $7.5-million prepayment on its revolving credit facility in mid-August, analysts said. In addition, its entire credit facility is set to mature on Sept. 18.
The Perkoa mine is located about 120 kilometres away from the capital city of Ouagadougou in the Sanguié province of Burkina Faso. The country has been battling an insurgency for seven years, which has led to the deaths of at least 2,000 people and compelled nearly two million to leave their homes.
In 2021, the Perkoa mine, which has been suspended since the floods in April, produced about 316.2 million pounds of zinc.
Aside from the suspension of the Perkoa mine, Trevali has also halted its Caribou zinc mine in New Brunswick, 50 kilometres west of Bathurst, due to financial challenges. Its Rosh Pinah zinc mine in Namibia continues to operate.