Report: Toxic Leak from Angola Diamond Mine Kills 12, Sickens Thousands

SourcingSep 09, 2021

Report: Toxic Leak from Angola Diamond Mine Kills 12, Sickens Thousands

Officials from the neighboring DRC will seek compensation for the pollution they say has turned tributaries red and affected millions.

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo—Twelve people have died and thousands fallen ill in the DRC after a diamond mine’s tailings dam polluted drinking water, government officials claim.

In August, researchers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kinshasa University reported that a leak of heavy metals from a mine in neighboring Angola was causing an “unprecedented environmental catastrophe,” Reuters reported.

According to the Congolese researchers, the pollution turned two tributaries of the Congo River—the Tshikapa and the Kasai—red, killed fish, and affected millions of people who live along their banks.

Officials in the DRC said they attribute the pollution to a leak from the Catoca diamond mine in neighboring Angola and have linked it to 12 deaths and the illnesses of more than 4,500 people.

Sociedade Mineira de Catoca (Catoca Mining Company), which operates the Catoca mine, released a statement saying tailings from its mine had leaked into nearby water sources in late July, filling the water with sediment before it could seal a rupture in the spillway, but claimed the leakage contained sand and clay, not toxic materials.

Catoca, a joint venture between Angolan state diamond company Endiama and Russian diamond mining company Alrosa, is the fourth largest open-pit mine in the world and the largest in Angola, responsible for producing more than 75 percent of the country’s diamonds.

Eve Bazaiba, DRC’s minister of environment, said she will seek compensation in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle, meaning those who cause the pollution should take on the cost of fixing any damage, The New York Times reported

The amount DRC officials are seeking has not yet been released.

The Times story also noted that while Bazaiba said the Angolan government and Catoca have acknowledged the pollution came from the diamond mine, other sources contend that isn’t the case and that Catoca has yet to confirm the allegations of a toxic spill.   

Investigations into the exact cause of the incident are ongoing. 

The Angolan government has not yet made a public statement about the incident, and Endiama did not respond to an email inquiry for comment from National Jeweler by press time. 

Alrosa sent the following statement: “Alrosa has offered support and expertise to remedy the consequences of the spill at Catoca. As a responsible minority shareholder of Catoca, Alrosa is committed to bringing more transparency.”

 Related stories will be right here …
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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