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Workers killed at Glencore’s Katanga mine in Congo

18 March, 2016Seven workers are confirmed dead at the Katanga mining company’s copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Katanga is 75 per cent owned by the Swiss mining giant Glencore.

The mine suffered what Glencore calls a “geotechnical failure” – a landslide – on the wall of the open pit mine on the morning of 8 March 2016.  

Seven workers who were known to be in the area were unaccounted for. Three bodies were recovered two days after the incident. The other four bodies remain missing. Glencore reports that recovery teams are still searching for them. Meanwhile, the company has given financial assistance to the victims’ families for funeral costs and a mourning period.

The Katanga mine is near the city of Kolwezi, in the copper and cobalt belt in the south of the country. It is a brownfield site that is being redeveloped. Katanga boasts on its website of having “one of the lowest unit production costs in the world” at the site.

Cobalt is a vital component of mobile phone batteries. Attempts by mining multinationals like Glencore to push unit costs as low as possible contribute to a poor health and safety culture, and may have been a factor in this accident.

Glencore is one of the largest and most diversified mining and commodity companies in the world. The company is hostile to unions, and in many of its global operations is attempting to replace experienced permanent staff with precarious workers. Despite claiming to be an industry leader in health and safety, the company has a poor record and has run hazardous operations with untrained scab labour.

Glencore prioritizes resource extraction and low unit cost over safety and good working conditions. The company has long been the target of sustained union and community campaigns. IndustriALL operates a global network of union activists fighting for justice at Glencore.

Glen Mpufane, director of mining at IndustriALL, said:

We are deeply saddened by yet more loss of life at a Glencore mine and send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims. Glencore says it is a leader in health and safety in the mining industry but this latest tragedy makes a mockery of their claims. No amount of compensation from Glencore can make up for the loss of a loved one.