DRC to deliver moratorium on mine confinement despite advance of COVID-19

THE mines department of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is to negotiate a moratorium on mine-site confinement of employees, said Reuters citing the central African country’s mines minister, Kitobo Samsoni.

Civil society groups last month demanded an end to mandatory mine-site confinement policies put in place by copper and cobalt mining companies to avoid coronavirus outbreaks, said Reuters.

At many mines in the DRC’s southern copper- and cobalt-rich region, workers had been told by managers to either stay and work or lose their jobs.

At some confined mine sites, Congolese workers reported being given insufficient food and water and inadequate accommodation, while at others they had no adequate personal protective equipment or hand-washing facilities, according to civil society groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and RAID.

Samsoni said in a statement on Sunday that he would engage with mining companies and deliver a moratorium to them in order to end confinement while taking into account their individual needs. All mining firms must find “… appropriate solutions in order to protect both the economy, and the workers who have been separated from their families for a long time,” said Samsoni.

“Coronavirus has dealt a fatal blow to mining activities, with the impossibility of repatriating capital, importations of products for the industry coming to a halt, the dizzying drop in metals prices on global markets in March,” he said of the impact of Covid-19.

The mining sector is a critical part of the DRC’s economy generating 32% of  GDP and 95% of export revenue in 2018, said Reuters.