Lubumbashi : 400,000 Victims of Mining Pollution caused by Ruashi Mining Company

For over a century, the mines in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, have shaped the local economy, attracting both wealth and significant environmental concerns.

This vast territory in Central Africa, dubbed a “geological scandal,” is rich in globally coveted minerals.

Criticism, however, has arisen from local NGOs denouncing increasing pollution of water, soil, and air, primarily attributed to intensive mining practices. A recent joint report by three non-governmental organizations highlighted the devastating effects of mining operations on communities near the Ruashi open-pit mine. According to the NGOs, wastewater extensively flows into the Luano River, crucial for local crop irrigation, directly affecting approximately 400,000 people.

Christian Bwenda, coordinator of PremiCongo NGO, describes the situation as alarming. Formerly productive farmers now contend with acidic soil, requiring increased use of costly chemical fertilizers to maintain acceptable yields. This dependence on polluting inputs divides farmers; some, like Mifie, opt for expensive solutions, while others, like Célestin, strive to maintain organic production despite immense challenges. The health consequences for residents are equally concerning. Local teacher Thérèse Ngoy believes a majority of children suffer from water quality-related issues and dust from mining activities. Skin diseases and cases of congenital malformations are frequently reported, confirming fears expressed by Georges Mawine, former Minister of Mines for Haut-Katanga.

Local environmental health officials, including Professor Arthur Kaniki from the University of Lubumbashi, warn of severe health risks associated with contaminated water. Despite efforts by Ruashi Mining, a subsidiary of the Chinese giant Jinchuan Group Ltd, to improve water quality in partnership with Regideso, criticisms persist. NGOs accuse the company of insufficiently sharing its environmental studies with local communities, which limits transparency and community trust.

In an official response to AFP, Elisa Kalasa, head of Ruashi Mining’s social and community department, defends the company’s actions while acknowledging remaining challenges. However, for Christian Bwenda and local NGOs, these efforts are deemed inadequate. They call for stricter regulations and drastic measures to minimize environmental impact and improve the quality of life for Lubumbashi residents.

The issue of Lubumbashi’s mines extends beyond mineral wealth, challenging the social and environmental responsibility of mining companies operating in the region. The future of hundreds of thousands depends on concerted action to reconcile economic development with environmental preservation in this critical area for the Congolese economy.

By The Editorial Board

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