DAKAR/LIMA (Reuters) – The deaths of 43 illegal miners at a Glencore facility in Congo last week highlighted a growing challenge for mining companies struggling to secure sites from small-scale prospectors digging for cobalt, copper and other minerals.
Many mines span hundreds of square kilometers across rural terrains, a tantalizing prospect for illegal miners, also known as artisanal miners, who break into sites in search of metals, some of which end up in electric cars and other products.
Thursday - Tragedy - Pressure - Companies - Changes
But even as last Thursday’s tragedy ratcheted up pressure on companies to make changes to security and community outreach, industry consultants and analysts say the task will be difficult given the geographic constraints and economic challenges faced by the world’s estimated 40 million artisanal miners.
“If people do not have work or an industry, they rely on this activity,” said Patrick Hickey, a mining industry consultant who has worked at mines across Africa.
Mine - Site - Security
“Where you can fence off the mine site, you do. Where you can’t, you try to use security. But it is difficult.”
Thursday’s tragedy occurred in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) concession, which spans kilometers of flat terrain on the outskirts of Kolwezi in the southern part of the country. The mine is operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a joint venture between Glencore-controlled Katanga Mining Ltd and the state-owned Gecamines.
Part - Perimeter - Areas - Population - Access
Only part of the perimeter, which abuts densely-populated residential areas, is protected by fencing, giving the local population easy access. Young men can often be seen just outside the mine carrying shovels and sacks brimming with freshly-mined ore to nearby trading depots dominated by Chinese buyers.
Private contractors provide most of the security, but activists say they are often ineffective and easily bought off by the miners in exchange for ignoring trespassers.
Miners - Access - Site - Glencore
About 2,000 illegal miners regularly access the site, Glencore said.
Wake Up To Breaking News!