Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have confirmed the death of at least 41 people in a mine collapse incident.
The collapse of a copper and cobalt mine occurred in Lualaba province in south-east DR Congo.
Officials said the collapse happened on Thursday at the Kamoto Copper Company.
The company is a subsidiary of Swiss mining giant Glencore, based near Lualaba’s main city of Kolwezi.
DR Congo is home to significant amount of copper and cobalt mining but illegal mining is also a major problem.
Engaging in illegal and artisanal mining is an important means of livelihood for most Congolese.
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Mines in southern DR Congo account for more than half of the world’s cobalt. Cobalt is a key component in mobile phone batteries.
But the latest disaster has been blamed on such illegal mining activities.
The provincial governor Richard Muyej said the “clandestine artisanal diggers” are to blame for the incident.
“Clandestine artisanal diggers who have flooded [the mine] and engaged in an anarchic exploitation,” he is quoted by Reuters as saying.
Glencore in a statement said there could be more casualties although it reported of 19 deaths.
But the company said its mines have been targeted by illegal miners for some time now.
The statement said “This has led to daily intrusions onto its concession by on average 2,000 illegal artisanal miners per day.
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This has presented a significant risk to its employees, operating equipment and the illegal artisanal miners themselves”.
Many African countries where mining takes place continue to struggle to deal with illegal miners. There have been several deaths as a result of collapsed sites.