Cobalt: Artisanal miners perish in DRC accident

Last week, more than 40 artisanal miners died at a DRC copper and cobalt mine when galleries overlooking an open pit collapsed. The accident occurred near the KOV open pit mine, operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore.

Roskill View

The tragedy at KOV highlights the dangers faced by artisanal miners in the DRC, as well as the security issues facing mining companies operating in the region.

Artisanal mining in the DRC provides livelihoods to hundreds of thousands of individuals who collect and sell cobalt, gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten and other minerals and precious gems. Trafigura Group estimates that 200,000 people are involved in artisanal mining in the copper-cobalt rich Katanga area alone.

Although artisanal mining is regulated by the DRC’s mining code, the stipulations of this code are widely ignored, and rarely enforced. Few artisanal miners are officially registered owing to the perceived cost, difficulty, and lack of benefits associated with the process. Consequentially, artisanal mining in the DRC is an inefficient, dangerous enterprise. Unsafe tunnelling and other safety issues have resulted in considerable loss of life. At a social level, the mines carry further risks owing in part to the remoteness of the mining sites and the lifestyle associated with artisanal mining. As such, alcohol and drug use, promiscuity and a high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, and rape and violence, have all been associated with artisanal mining practices.

Roskill estimates that 16.5kt of cobalt was produced by artisanal miners in the DRC last year. As such, artisanal production accounted for roughly 15% of the country’s cobalt output.

Roskill’s NEW Cobalt: Outlook to 2029 report will be published in July 2019. Click here to download the brochure or sample pages or access further information.