10 April 2018

Rwanda: South African Firm Suspends Mining Activities After Rwamagana Mine Collapse

The management of PIRAN Resources Limited, a South African firm that owns the concession that collapsed recently and trapped four workers for three days, has temporarily suspended mining activities in all their concessions citing "safety reasons."

In an interview with the Chief Executive Officer of PIRAN, John Sanderson, said that the recent incident at their cassiterite concession in Mwurire Sector of Rwamagana District, where the four miners miraculously survived, gave them a heads-up to revise the safety of their concessions to prevent such from happening in the future.

"At the moment, we have temporarily suspended our mining activities at our concessions in Mwurire and Musha (both in Rwamagana). We want to first conduct a safety audit and risk assessments for the safety of miners," Sanderson said.

The four miners were pulled out alive after 72 hours trapped in about 150 metres from the concession entrance, and about 20 metres deep. At least 150 people, including security personnel, residents and miners from Rutongo, worked 24-hours in shifts to drill the tunnel to rescue the miners, who were trapped after the tunnel collapsed blocking their only exit.

Chief Inspector of Police Thobald Kanamugire, the Police spokesperson for the Eastern region, said that the police are working with the miners to ensure risks are minimised or prevented.

"It's all about taking safety first," CIP Kanamugire said.

Meanwhile, Sanderson said that a report by the joint inspection team, which was constituted, will be thoroughly assessed and will guide their safety and risk management in their concessions.

Mwurire concession has been in use since the colonial period, and is said to be having many tunnels, some of which are not known by miners.

It is said that lack of knowledge on the patterns of the concession was the cause of the recent incident after one of the miners tried to remove an overhead stone, which was holding an unknown upper tunnel.

"Inspections ascertain out if there are any loose rocks on side of shaft, highwall at entrance, proper underground ventilation, among others," Sanderson said.

"The team is at work... we want to have facts; for now, the mine is closed for the safety of staff. We don't want to speculate," he added.

As part of the general safety and risk management, Sanderson said they intend to invest more than $5 million to introduce mechanised mining (open cast mining) in which miners will also be trained.

He observed that the traditional methods of excavation and other non-mechanised practices expose mine workers to risk.

He also commended the people of Mwurire and all those that took part in the successful rescue saying it is a "shared responsibility" to save life.

Richard Kamanzi, the PIRAN security manager, noted that such accidents are prevalent where mining is done illegally or without knowledge on the status of the concession.

Minners discharged

Meanwhile, the four miners who were miraculously rescued have been discharged and are in good shape, officials said.

While narrating the ordeal, Gilbert Gasigwa, 23, one of those rescued, said: "It's a situation you wouldn't even want to think about. We didn't know if it was day or night. Our only hope was the signal we were receiving from rescuers that we kept hearing from onset to the time they reached us."

To communicate and to know if the four men were still alive, rescuers would knock on rocks once while those trapped responded by knocking three times.

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