As the tunnel collapsed, he dug frantically to save the nine miners inside.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a rare occurrence in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo: heavy rains had caused a mine to collapse. In this case, nine workers were trapped inside.

But a miner on the outside of the tunnel didn’t hesitate. Without any proper safety or rescue equipment, he immediately got to work doing what he could do to help the men fighting for their lives inside.

There were no tools at his disposal, but he couldn’t just stand by as his fellow workers were buried alive. So he started to dig with his hands. 

The Miners Emerge

Time was of the essence. Huge amounts of mud and dirt cascaded down the steep slope above the mine. It fell onto the man’s head and in his face, but he didn’t stop. At times, rocks came crashing down around him.

Amazingly, the many other people on site showed great restraint. Had they rushed to help the man digging with his hands, they might have caused an immediate and total collapse of the tunnel.

Instead, they held back and held their breath while the lone man continued to scoop mud out of the tunnel entrance with his bare hands…and one by one, the trapped miners popped out the tunnel.

With each of his fellow workers that made it out of the collapsing tunnel alive, the man’s determination was renewed and the onlookers cheered. As more mud and rock covered the hole each time, he dug it out again and again.

A breathtaking video clip of the man digging through clods of mud with his bare hands, and of the trapped miners emerging one by one, quickly went viral on social media. On Twitter, many people commented on the high cost in human lives in these Congolese mines. Others praised the man who never gave up on his fellow miners, calling him a true hero. 

The True Cost of Mining

One Twitter user chided those who would buy products made from raw materials extracted in a way they would not allow in their own country. Working conditions in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo are such that hundreds of miners die in work-related accidents every year. Regulations are ignored and employee contracts are rare.

For example, the country’s Ministry of Mining has a recommendation that miners dig no more than 30 meters below the surface; but digging up to 200 meters below the surface is quite common. The mines also employ thousands of children.  

“In DRC, the mining industry is not organized,” said Janvier Murairi, a human rights researcher and president of ASSODIP, a Congolese organization that promotes development while protecting human rights. “People work in disorder, and corruption is everywhere.”

Another Twitter user suggested that, rather than deprive these people of income, that changes be made to safety standards on the mine sites. Indeed, a lack of proper safety equipment and training for miners in Congo means that collapses like this one are shockingly frequent. And the miners aren’t always so lucky.

This time, thanks to this man who put his own life on the line and did not give up, all nine of the trapped miners survived—a miracle indeed.