Congo faults Angola for river pollution  that claimed 12 lives, seeks compensation

Congo River polluted by Angola mines.[Image: courtesy]
KINSHASA, Congo—The Democratic Republic of Congo seeks compensation from the owners of an Angolan diamond mine after a tailings dam leak polluted drinking water, causing 12 deaths and making thousands of people ill, the country’s environment minister assured on Friday.

The late July leak from Angola’s biggest diamond mine turned a tributary of the Congo River red following a rupture in a spillway for the mine’s tailings dam, which stores mining industry waste meant to stay undisturbed.

According to Kinshasa University researchers, the huge pollution affected more than 2 million people, killed fish, and caused diarrhea among communities.

DRC which shares a 1,600-mile (2,575km) long border with Angola seeks compensation line with the polluters pay principle, where those who produce pollution should bear the cost of mitigating it, Eve Bazaiba told a media conference after visiting the country’s southern Kasai province.

Bazaiba said she could not yet say how much damages the country could needs. She said 4,400 people had fallen ill.

The mine’s operator, Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the damages claim and death listed by the minister.

The leak and deaths represent the latest in a string of tailings disasters for the global mining industry that investors, executives, and environmentalists have tried to curtail with safety and inspection standards introduced last year.

Not all companies-including Catoca-have publicly committed to the standard, which is non-binding, further fueling questions about how the standards can cause industry-wide change if not all mines and mining companies adhere.

Catoca, a joint venture between Angolan state diamond company Endima and Russia’s Alrosa said in a press release last month that the tailings leaked into Lova River, a tributary of the Tshikapa River, which eventually feeds into Congo River.