Canadian mining company denies allegation after rights groups say workers confined to sites in Congo – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – June 13 2020)

Thousands of workers at multinational mining companies in Congo, including Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., were confined to their mine site for more than two months under the threat of losing their jobs if they left the site, human-rights groups say.

Ivanhoe denies the allegation, which was made this week in a letter by a group of 11 international and local human-rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Ivanhoe says its workers were permitted to leave the pandemic lockdown and self-quarantine at home if they chose.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest producer of copper. Many cobalt and copper mining companies announced a lockdown of their mine sites in March because of the novel coronavirus, which has infected at least 4,515 people and killed 98 in the Central African country.

Ivanhoe and its joint venture partner, Chinese company Zijin Mining, are developing the Kamoa-Kakula project in Congo, described as one of the world’s biggest copper deposits.

It says the project has “continued uninterrupted” since March because of a strict lockdown in which “all key personnel are on site.” More than 3,500 employees and contractors are working there.

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