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Death toll in DRC Glencore copper mine accident rises to 43

28 June 2019

Mining giant Glencore confirmed that dozens of illegal miners were killed when part of an open-pit copper mine in the Kolwezi area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) collapsed on June 27. Local officials told Reuters the death toll was 43.

The KOV and Kamoto East pits – Image: KCC
The KOV and Kamoto East pits – Image: KCC

The company, which owns 75% of the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) through its Katanga Mining subsidiary, blamed the illegal miners for trespassing at the copper mine and “putting their lives at risk”. These miners were working along two narrow strips cut into the side of the open pit, which caved in, killing the workers.
Glencore said it has observed a growing number of artisanal miners trespassing at the mine and estimates that on average 2,000 illegal miners gather on the site every day.
The daily intrusions have raised a significant risk to its employees, operating equipment and the illegal artisanal miners themselves, Glencore said.
In a statement Glencore said the incidents were not linked to the mine’s operations and would not affect production at the mine.
The company said it was assisting search and rescue operations with the local authorities. It urged all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site.
Deadly mining accidents are common in DRC, where unemployment is high and artisanal miners hunt for copper to sell, often in dangerous conditions.
The collapse is Kamoto’s deadliest accident since 2016 when a 250-metre pit wall collapsed, killing six miners, of which five were employed by Kamoto.
A report by Reuters after the incident said that illegal mining was a fact of life across much of Africa and that in South Africa alone, there are an estimated 30,000 illegal gold miners.

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