Eurasian Resources Group has asked authorities in Congo to reconsider a three-month ban imposed on its Boss Mining unit’s copper and cobalt operations after the government accused the miner of polluting the environment.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s mines ministry temporarily halted Boss Mining’s operations in Katanga province, after flooding in March that caused “enormous environmental damage” and loss of life, it said in a statement on June 2.
ERG blamed the incident on heavy rain which it said overwhelmed high-lying third-party tailings dams resulting in an overflow into Boss Mining’s water storage facility and flooding Kakanda River’s downstream banks. A subsequent investigation by state agencies and the company found no evidence of pollution, ERG said.
“We reject any third party rumours about the pollution,” ERG Africa told Reuters.
“The incident occurred far away from the processing plant which rules out any kind of pollution. The torrential downpours of 21 to 22 March were indeed unforeseen and led to the first incident of this nature and scale. Water analysis conducted following the disaster confirmed no pollution.”
Mining companies polluting the environment in Africa’s largest copper producer and the world’s top cobalt supplier would not go unpunished, Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, the mines minister said in the statement. The minister also accused ERG of operating with an expired environmental clearance certificate and warned the three-month ban could be extended.
While ERG said it provided financial and medical support as well emergency supplies to the victims of the flooding, Kalambayi said the company must take steps to repair damage suffered by communities. Still, the temporary closure of the operations would impact some of ERG’s copper and cobalt production and also hit the company’s workers, suppliers and communities, it said.
“Boss Mining is hoping that the minister will reconsider this suspension decision since there was no pollution and for all the rest there is a specific remedy,” it said.
The dam at Boss Mining’s Kakanda operations was breached three times in March and April, negatively impacting surrounding communities and the environment, according to Emmanuel Umpula, executive director at African Natural Resources Watch.
“There was even loss of life,” Umpula told Reuters. “The authorities could have reacted more quickly. To date there has been no process to identify those who lost family members or property.”