As news filtered out Thursday that Glencore had established itself as the majority shareholder of PolyMet, which is looking to build Minnesota’s first-ever copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, devastating headlines about the Swiss-based company were also breaking.
At least 43 “illegal miners” died at a Kamoto Copper Company mine, operated by Glencore’s subsidiary Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Glencore later said the incidents were not linked to the official “operations and activities” of the mine.
While clandestine miners, who access sites without approval or permits, are a common occurrence in Congo and across Africa according to Reuters, the incident raises several questions in light of Glencore’s new role on the Iron Range.
With questions already swirling around the company’s environmental and labor record, Thursdays’ death toll did little to temper the opposition to the mining giant and the project. But it also proves a point supporters of PolyMet have pushed on in recent years, when Glencore’s involvement was significantly lower key.
Mining for metals like copper and nickel, as miners were at KCC in Congo, is better done under the strict regulatory oversight in the United States and Minnesota, for both the environment and the safety of its workers.