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Man Uses Bare Hands to Free Colleagues from Collapsed Mine

Artisanal Mining in DRC
Artisanal mining in DRC. A man used bare hands to free colleagues from collapsed mine. Credit: Fairphone / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a rescue took place when nine miners were saved from a collapsed mound of earth by a rescuer who used only his bare hands. The incident was caught on video and has since gone viral.

The footage shows the rescuer removing soil from the unstable mound, revealing one by one the muddied miners who emerged from a hole in the ground. Throughout the rescue, the rescuer was clearly anxious, as parts of the mound crumbled during his efforts.

However, all the miners were successfully pulled out alive, according to authorities. The incident occurred in South Kivu province on Saturday after heavy rainfall caused the collapse.

Mining in the DRC has a reputation for being dangerous, particularly with regard to copper and cobalt. These “artisanal” mines are often unregulated and can collapse without warning. Many of them are also illegal, encroaching on established mines operated by multinational companies, said The National News.

Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights (GCBHR) Report

An unbiased report released in February suggested that companies using cobalt in products such as electric cars and smartphones should focus on enhancing the conditions at artisanal mines rather than eliminating artisanal cobalt from their supply chains.

The report’s author, Dorothee Baumann Pauly, who serves as the director of the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights, stated that manufacturers of electric vehicles and electronics companies should take a proactive approach in this regard.

Ms. Pauly added that these companies could not completely eliminate the use of artisanal cobalt, particularly when it is being transported to smelters and refiners in China and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Hence, it would be more sensible for these companies to invest in the improvement of the working conditions at artisanal mines rather than attempting to exclude them from their supply chains entirely.

Past incidents of mine-digging casualties

In 2019, there was an accident at the Kamoto Copper Company mine operated by Glencore, where at least 43 miners who were working without proper permission died.

The miners had dug tunnels that were not safe on the vast site. The following year, a similar disaster occurred in Kamituga, killing 50 miners, according to The National News.

The DRC has an estimated 12 million artisanal miners, and they are known locally as ‘creuseurs’.

The video that was widely shared on social media has been verified by Reuters.

Last year, in June, there was a collapse near the city of Tshikapa, and at least six miners died. The authorities suspended mining activities in the area as a result.

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