Four workers at a prospective diamond mine in Musanze District who were trapped underground over the weekend were confirmed dead on Tuesday.
The workers were trapped on Saturday in Cyabagarura Cell, Musanze Sector.
Rescuers raced against time through the weekend and Monday to reach the victims, but their efforts bore no fruit, local leaders and Police said.
The victims were identified as Sixbert Nzigiyimana, the owner of the concession, Jean de Dieu Kamanzi, Mbarushimana alias Kazungu, and Calliope Nambajimana.
It emerged that the miners had burnt charcoal using petrol to break a rock to create a tunnel but suffocated in the process, and their bodies were burnt by the same fire, according to Police.
“The rescue efforts were in vain; rescuers went inside and only found charred bodies. Authorities decided to leave the bodies underground since there are no minerals in that spot. Relatives of the deceased also agreed to it,” the Northern Region Police Spokesperson, Inspector of Police Innocent Gasasira, said on Tuesday.
Musanze District Mayor, Jean Claude Musabyimana, said it was unfortunate that lives were lost in a mine that was not legally operational.
He said the families of the victims accepted the fate of their relatives and consented to their burial in the same place.
“We will put signs at the entrance of the tunnel showing that people were buried there. We closed the mine permanently and we will ensure that it is guarded so that nobody else tries to use it,” said Musabyimana.
Residents reacted angrily to the news, however, claiming that the mine was operational for years with the knowledge of local officials.
They accused the district and Police of failing to close the mine. But the allegation was dismissed by local officials.
“What is terrifying most is the lives of people we will never see again but officials are also lying, it is public knowledge that the mine was operational. Employees got paid by the company, it is not clear why officials are saying it was being used illegally,” said a relative of one of the deceased, only identified as Nzabonimana.