The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said it believes toxic waste from an Angolan mine has killed 12 people and caused illness in more than 4,500 people.
The country’s Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba said along with the 12 deaths, thousands had fallen ill with diarrhea and skin conditions.
Reporting on the findings of a commission of inquiry, Bazaiba said: “This catastrophe was caused by an Angolan mining company, which has acknowledged the facts.”
Angolan diamond mine believed to be source of toxic spill
Catoca mine is a joint venture between Angolan state diamond company Endiama and Russia’s Alrosa.
It said in a press release in August that tailings, residue of materials separated out during the mining process, had leaked into the Lova River which is a tributary of the Tshikapa River, eventually feeding into the Congo River.
Catoca said it conducted immediate repairs and sealed the breach.
In late July, Bazaiba drew a link between pollution in the Kasai River, a major tributary of the Congo River, with the toxic spill from Angola’s largest diamond mine. Water in the Tshikapa and Kasai rivers had turned red.
Shortly after, officials saw dead fish and hippos in the Kasai. According to the inquiry’s findings four out of five administrative territories in Kasai province have been impacted.
Congo seeking compensation
Researchers at Kinshasa University said in August that pollution had affected around 2 million people, causing sickness among river communities.
The environment minister has visited the country’s southern province of Kasai and said the government would be seeking compensation according to the “polluter pays” principle — that those producing pollution should cover the cost of the consequences.
Provincial authorities have banned communities from consuming river water. Authorities have sent 40 metric tons of medical supplies to the area.
kb/msh (Reuters, AFP)