Emergency responders from LXML rescue artisanal miners in Savannakhet Province
February 04, 2022
An emergency rescue team from Lane Xang Minerals Limited (LXML) responded to a serious incident involving artisanal miners in Vilabouly District near Sepon mine site in Savannakhet Province at approximately 8.00pm on 31 January 2022.
Two men (23 and 27 years) searching for malachite (copper, or ‘green rocks’) were trapped several meters underground by falling rocks in an improvised tunnel they were digging on the side of a mountain. Other men were able to escape to raise the alarm.
Organised gangs and unscrupulous traders often encourage vulnerable community members, including young children, to take grave risks so they can profit from peril. This incident highlights the many dangers associated with illegal and unregulated mining practices. Many people have been killed in Laos and surrounding countries in similar incidents.
After a fruitless attempt to dig them out, the men’s families and the village head sought assistance from LXML to rescue the two men. LXML immediately notified police and local authorities. The location was remote and difficult to access, the ground was wet, and with the risk of rockslides and rain approaching in the darkness, hundreds of LXML employees toiled around the clock with special equipment to save the lives of the men trapped in the tunnel. After about fourteen hours, LXML’s mining team were able to create a bench for an excavator to access the area and rescue the two men, who are recovering in hospital surrounded by relieved family members, suffering from a few scratches and bruises, lucky to be alive.
“We were extremely concerned for the safety of a number of villagers, including the families of the two men, who could have been killed if a landslide had closed the tunnel”, said Paul Harris, LXML General Manager. “The actions of the illegal traders placed dozens of community lives in danger. We pray others will take this as a lesson, think of their families, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and children, before taking such risks in future.”
LXML reported on the incident to the Ministry of Mines in Vientiane, Vilabouly District, and Savannakhet Provincial Government, and is continuing to work closely with local communities and security authorities to raise awareness and stop illegal traders placing local people’s lives at risk to prevent a recurrence.