Not less than 43 illegal miners have lost their lives in a copper mine owned by Glencore in Lualaba province, south-east Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Thursday, authorities say.
The miners were killed when two ‘galleries’ overlooking an open excavation pit collapsed at the same mining site which claimed six lives in 2016.
The provincial governor Richard Muyej blamed the accident on what he called “clandestine artisanal diggers”.
Glencore said in a statement that 19 people had been killed but added that there were possible unconfirmed fatalities.
It added that its mines have been targeted by illegal miners:
“This has led to daily intrusions onto its concession by on average 2,000 illegal artisanal miners per day. This has presented a significant risk to its employees, operating equipment and the illegal artisanal miners themselves”.
Lualaba’s governor Richard Muyej also blamed illegal miners for the accident:
“Clandestine artisanal diggers who have flooded [the mine] and engaged in an anarchic exploitation,” he said, news agency Reuters reported.
Reserves of cobalt and other minerals like diamonds, copper and gold, should make DR Congo one of the richest countries in Africa, but its people are among the poorest.