The Observers

Human rights concerns on the rise as local miners in DR Congo grapple with foreign mining companies

Richard Ilunga is the human rights director for the NGO Afrewatch.
Richard Ilunga is the human rights director for the NGO Afrewatch. © Observers

Tensions between local miners and foreign mining companies have been rising in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Videos shared online have shown soldiers beating men for trespassing on mining concessions, and Congolese employees of foreign mining companies report mistreatment. We spoke to Richard Ilunga, the human rights director for the NGO Afrewatch, about the risks local miners face while they try to make a living.

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DR Congo produces 70 percent of the world's cobalt, and a great deal of it is mined on concessions owned by foreign companies, often Chinese. Many local miners have no work and no place to mine, even though the government has given mining companies land to be used by locals. 

Ilunga explained that the foreign mining companies see locals as a threat to profits, giving rise to harsh security measures. In July, two miners trespassing on a concession were beaten and whipped by soldiers guarding the site. 

On the other hand, Congolese miners who are able to find jobs at Chinese mining companies have reported mistreatment and poor working conditions. "The Congolese workers work longer hours than they are supposed to," Ilunga explained. "They are insulted and tormented."