Kinshasa [DR Congo]: At least 19 illegal artisanal miners were killed on Thursday after part of a copper and cobalt mine owned by Swiss-based mining giant Glencore collapsed in southern Congo.
The incident happened when two galleries caved in at a mine in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore, Al Jazeera reported.
“Tragically there were 19 fatalities today, with possible further unconfirmed fatalities,” Glencore said in a statement, which said there had been recurrent problems with illicit mining on its concessions.
Other reports suggest the death toll could be higher.
“The illegal artisanal miners were working two galleries in benches overlooking the extraction area. Two of these galleries caved in,” the company said.
Glencore also said that KCC had observed a “growing presence” of illegal miners, leading to around 2,000 people intruding on its operating sites every day.
“KCC urges all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site,” Glencore said.
Artisanal mining by independent workers using their own materials on the edge of commercial mine sites is a big problem across Africa.
The KOV mine, which spans a vast flat expanse on the outskirts of the city of Kolwezi near the Zambian border, is one of the largest high-grade copper assets in the world.
According to Al Jazeera, the collapse of a 250-metre wall inside the same pit had killed seven mine employees in 2016.
Mine disasters in Africa have cost the lives of numerous miners, especially unauthorised artisanal miners who operate without safety standards or regulations.