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29 Jul 2019

Amnesty International

DRC: Crisis in mines requires sustainable solution, says Amnesty International

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"DRC: Crisis in mines requires sustainable solution" 25 July 2019

A deadly accident and the deployment of the army to two massive copper and cobalt mines in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the past four weeks have exposed the country’s weak regulation of its mining sector and poor protection of human rights. The crisis has been caused by the government’s failure to manage a situation where hundreds of thousands of people in the mineral-rich region make a living through informal, unregulated artisanal mining...some miners trespass onto mines owned by multinational large-scale mining companies to extract valuable ore. This often brings them into conflict with the police and security guards...

On 27 June, at least 43 artisanal miners died when the tunnel they were in collapsed. They had been digging for cobalt on the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) mine in Kolwezi, owned by Glencore International AG (Glencore). At around the same time, the DRC government ordered several hundred soldiers, carrying military weapons, to evict artisanal miners from the Tenke Fungurume Mine (TFM), 100 km from Kolwezi, which is owned by China Molybdenum Company Limited (CMOC). The government then ordered the army to clear miners from KCC as well. At TFM, the army threatened to forcibly remove up to 10,000 people from the 1,600 square km concession, some of whom lived there. According to African Resources Watch (Afrewatch) and media reports, local residents said that soldiers destroyed housing and shelters in two villages, which could amount to forced evictions contrary to international law. Afrewatch also reported that soldiers had fired shots to disperse artisanal miners...Glencore and CMOC deny requesting the army’s deployment...

Amnesty International remains concerned that the army will commit serious human rights violations during such operations...Amnesty International is calling for the DRC government to immediately withdraw its troops from the mines...The authorities in the DRC must also investigate and act upon any human rights violations that may have been committed during the operations to remove artisanal miners...Amnesty International has written to CMOC and Glencore to remind them of their responsibility to respect human rights in the context of these events and operations...

Glencore explained that it was taking several measures. These include:

- Informing the local communities of the dangers of artisanal mining;

- Making it harder for artisanal miners to access certain areas, by for example, deliberately collapsing underground “galleries”, digging trenches and adding soil and mud into known “illegal mining areas”;

- Supporting alternative sources of income for community members so that they do not need to rely on artisanal mining;

- Working with NGOs and churches to deliver a holiday camp for thousands of school children to deter them from mining....