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African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the death of 43 artisanal miners in a mine collapse in the DRC

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) has learned of the tragic death of 43 artisanal miners who perished when a part of the wall of the Glencore-owned Kamoto Copper Company open pit mine (Kamoto mine) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) collapsed on 27 June 2019.

The Commission, particularly through the Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights (WGEI), Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, and the Country Rapporteur for the DRC, Commissioner Soyata Maiga, expresses deep concern about the challenges affecting artisanal miners in the DRC.

The Commission expresses its dismay that the government responded to the tragic deaths by ordering military intervention at the Kamoto mine to remove the over 2000 artisanal miners who operate there, after miners defied a government deadline to vacate the mine and clashed with police. The Commission understands that there are allegations of live ammunition having been fired to disperse miners, and expresses its concern that the military intervention has escalated ongoing tensions, leading to protests by hundreds of artisanal miners against the government’s response to the accident.

The Commission is concerned that this is not the first time that military intervention was used in mining areas, as troops were also deployed to evict thousands of artisanal miners operating without permit from China Molybdenum Co.’s Tenke Fungurume mine in June 2019.

The Commission is further concerned by the fact that despite artisanal mining being legal in the DRC, the estimated 12 million artisanal miners do not have appropriate tools and use rudimentary, outdated and unregulated practices, which endanger their health, lives and the environment.

The Commission is concerned that this could be contrary to the duty on all States Parties to the African Charter to ensure that measures that guarantee compliance with human rights, relevant safety and environmental standards for protecting artisanal miners are adopted and imposed, as expressed in the Commission’s State Reporting Guidelines on Articles 21 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Commission further reminds the DRC of the requirements of the African Union’s African Mining Vision which recommends transforming artisanal and small-scale mining communities “from vulnerable and marginal enclaves of unorganized groups of miners and other actors into integrated and functionally sustainable and resilient communities.”

The Commission therefore:

1.     Requests the Government of the DRC to put in place local mechanisms, involving local government, community representatives and civil society organisations, for promoting observance of the relevant safety, labour and environmental standards in artisanal mining;

2.     Draws the attention of the Government of the DRC to the Commission’s Guidelines on Policing of Assemblies in Africa which provides that the armed forces should not be employed to quell protest actions by civilians;

3.     Requests the DRC to ensure that its law enforcement response to protests complies with the requirement of avoiding the use of lethal force; and

4.     Urges the Government of the DRC to ensure that appropriate legislative and safety measures are in place to minimize the accidents claiming lives in the mines and ensure that mining companies operating in the DRC comply with these measures, and their obligations to safeguard mines from accidents claiming lives and to provide effective reparations to the family members in the event of such accidents occurring.

Banjul, 29 July 2019