The expansion of cobalt and copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is “wrecking lives”, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Tuesday. Residents have been forcibly evicted from their homes and subjected to human rights abuses such as sexual assault, arson and beatings. Amnesty International compiled the report with DRC-based organisation Initiative pour la Bonne Gouvernance et les Droits Humains by interviewing more than 130 people at six different mining projects in Kolweziin the southern province of Lualaba.
Campaigne Minière de Musonoie Global SAS (COMMUS), a joint venture between Chinese company Zijin Mining Group and the DRC’s state mining company Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines), run the mines in the Kolwezi area. During the first wave of evictions in 2016, 56 households were affected. Crispin Mwenda, a 63-year-old local resident who lost his home, said evictees were not allowed to retain a copy on an agreement protocol COMMUS had given them.
In accordance with Congolese law, COMMUS paid evictees $50,000 (CnFr123.2m) in compensation. However, all residents interviewed by Amnesty International said they could only buy homes on the outskirts of Kolwezi with inferior access to essential services. A former resident told Amnesty: “I had a large house with electricity, water… Now, I have a small house that was all I could afford with the compensation… We have to drink water from wells… Almost no electricity.”
Since a greater part of Kolwezi falls within the perimeters of possible mining concessions, the report observes that it is a possibility that more of the city could be sold off for mining developments in the future, leaving all residents vulnerable to eviction. Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said: “The people of the DRC experienced significant exploitation and abuse during the colonial and post-colonial era, and their rights are still being sacrificed as the wealth around them is stripped away.”
Demand for copper and cobalt has risen in recent times due to the metals’ applications in the energy transition. Copper is important in the production of electrified technologies and GlobalData expects copper production to grow at a 3% compound annual growth rate until 2026. Similarly, demand for cobalt is predicted to increase 403% by 2050.