‘You need to find alternative ways for these guys to work’
The death of dozens of artisanal miners in Congo on the property of a Toronto-Stock Exchange-listed Canadian company highlights the fraught relationship between overseas mining companies and local communities.
At least 43 artisanal miners have reportedly died while digging for cobalt — a vital metal for the batteries found in smartphones, tablets and electric cars — on a spot of ground that overlooks Katanga Mining Ltd.’s vast Kamoto Copper Complex.
Throughout much of Africa and other parts of the world, artisanal miners are often found near mines, taking grave risks to scour tailings or waste rock in search of valuable metals. Their numbers appear to be growing, along with tragic accidents, which has provoked questions and challenges for mining companies.
“Artisanal mining is largely poverty-driven,” said Joanne Lebert, executive director of Ottawa-based Impact, a non-profit focused on policy issues in the extractive sector. “They’re doing it because they need a source of income. They’re hand to mouth.”
Lebert, whose organization has two offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is opening a third office in the country in September, as it launches an initiative to bring greater transparency to the cobalt supply chain.