Rwanda National Police
Four miners that had been trapped underground in a mineral concession that collapsed in Rwamagana District last Saturday, have been rescued.
According to the police, the cassiterite concession owned by Piran mining company, located in Ntunga Cell of Mwurire Sector collapsed last Saturday at around 10:20 am, minutes after five miners had entered it.
However, one of the miners had stayed slightly behind his colleagues and he run towards the entrance of the tunnel as the upper part of the tunnel started to cave in.
Rubbles, however, hit his legs in the process of escape, although he was in the safer zone of the tunnel, where he was rescued shortly after and rushed to the hospital.
In the midmorning of Tuesday, Jean D’Amour Banguyeneza, Laurent Gatambara, Gilbert Gasigwa and Jean Marie Vianney Munyampenda saw light again. They were immediately taken to Rwamagana hospital for medical check up.
The Eastern region Police Commander (RPC), Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Dismas Rutaganira and the Mayor of Rwamagana District, Radjab Mbonyumuvunyi oversaw the successful rescue process.
Close to 150 residents of Mwurire and miners from Rutongo mines joined security organs in the day-and-night rescue shifts.
Medical personnel were also part of the rescue to provide immediate first aid.
“This is a concession that has been in use since colonial times. Although the mining activity was itself legal, we are in the rainy season, this can weaken the soils and cause it to collapse,” ACP Rutaganira said.
“This is why we encourage miners to revise their inspection and safety plans especially in such periods to ensure that their concessions are in proper state and safer before they start mining,” he added.
The rescue process was tricky since using machinery would have pushed the soils further inside the tunnel to bury the four men. Rescuers opted for alternative safer means like electrical amour.
“We had to use several types of drilling equipment and different access strategies to reach the miners and to winch them to the surface,” the RPC said.
The victims were trapped approximately 150 meters from the mine entrance. This, however, required some special skills to know if they are alive, the side of the concession they were in and to continuously communicating with them.
The sending sound signals included knocking on rocks and receiving a similar response from the receivers, which served as proof of life.
“You could see that every person especially residents and miners from Rutongo mines, who spent days and nights in the voluntary work drilling had courage, patience and love to rescue these people,” the RPC said, thanking everyone who participated in the rescue.
According to the Mayor of Rwamagana “this tragedy reminds us the need to have proper safety measures in place, frequently replacing them with modern ones and knowledge of the status of concessions before anyone enters them.”
Investigations indicate that one of the miners attempted to extract some minerals on a rock that was above them yet the same rock was holding another tunnel that was passing above them, leading to the collapse and trapping them underground.
“We assume the incident was largely caused by lack of knowledge on the patterns and intersections of the tunnels. This is why having site maps is very important,” Mr. Mbonyumuvunyi said.
Medics at Rwamagana hospital said thay the victims mainly suffered from dehydration and related complications.
By press time, medics said that the four men were steadily regaining conciousness and would be discharged very soon.