Tunatazama - Community Monitors

DRC was not prepared for Covid-19, mining companies called to step in

by Patricia Ngoy-Mango


Just like many African countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was not prepared to face Covid-19 and its effects. Early March, as the last Ebola patient was being discharged from hospital, the coronavirus was suddenly in the Congolese capital city, Kinshasa, causing evident panic amid the population and, judging by the way they reacted to the first alleged case of coronavirus, the government too!  The various myths around the disease (it is a western disease that cannot affect Africans, the African heat will kill it…) did not help manage the situation. With a totally unprepared and misinformed population, with evident uncertainty from the government issuing contradictory statements on confirmed cases, number of available respirators in the country, lockdown measures in the big cities, one can only imagine what a disaster this would be for the generally poor mining communities.

As of April 12th, the DRC officially has 241 confirmed cases, 20 deaths (which is about 10% in one month), 20 recoveries and 143 stable cases. More than 5 of the serious cases are on respirators and there are 51 cases currently awaiting test results[1]. The pandemic has reached 5 provinces so far (Kinshasa, Sud-Kivu, Nord- Kivu, Ituri and Kwilu) but most cases are in Kinshasa in the Gombe area[2]. Many believe that a Covid-19-related shutdown of mining plants in the DRC could weigh heavily on copper, cobalt and coltan global production.

The DRC needs to stabilize the curve of contamination and keep mines open to avoid an economic chaos from which the country would be unlikely to recover. In an article published on April 1st, Italian newspaper II Sole-24 Ore wonders is smartphones can still be produced in case DRC mines are shut down due to Covid-19 lockdown and concludes that this would be a disaster for many industries depending on these minerals[3]. Chemaf has already halted the building of copper-cobalt plant over coronavirus[4].

SARW published an article[5] in March, calling mining companies to contribute to countries’ efforts to face the pandemic. Indeed, mining companies are now given the opportunity, as part of their social corporate responsibilities to channel available resources, financial and otherwise to fight the pandemic, especially in the communities where their activities take place.

Since then, a few have come up with various offers: Kibali Barrick Gold is reported to have contributed $1.5 in equipment to fight coronavirus[6]. Glencore, through its mines in DRC (Kamoto Copper Company-KCC and Mutanda Mining-MUMI) has offered $750 000 to the Lualaba government to fight the pandemic[7] but a lot more should be expected from the mining giant who recently committed to supply to Samsung 21 000 tons of cobalt in the next 5 years[8]. Fungurume Mining (TFM) donated 400.000 $[9] and in Kasaï Oriental,  (SACIM) donated

Equipment to fight COVID-19 (buckets, gloves and masks) to the province’s governor with promise of a funding to the tune of US$120 000[10].

More actions are expected from mining communities, especially in preparing and protecting mining communities, by building adequate medical facilities to received covid-19 patients or improve the existing ones around them; supplying materials such as gloves and masks to help stop the contamination; ensure continuous supply of water and electricity; ensure that mine workers continue receiving their wages during the predicable lockdown to be able to sustain their families.

[1] @TopCongoFM, @CMR_Covid19_RDC, April 7th 2020, acceded 07 April 2020

[2] @MinSanteRDC, April 7th 2020, acceded 07 April 2020

[3] www.ilsole24Ore.com, acceded 07 April 2020

[4] Reuters, April 5th 2020, acceded 06 April 2020

[5] @THESARWATCH, March, 20, 2020, acceded 20 March 2020

[6] @actualitecd, april 3rd 2020, acceded 03 April 2020

[7] www.7sur7.cd, acceded 07 April 2020

[8] www.zoom-eco.net, acceded 07 April 2020

[9] «TFM fait un don de 400 000 $ à la province de lualaba pour lutter contre la covid-19» https://www.mediacongo.net/article-actualite-66220.html, Acceded, 09 april 2020.

[10] «Kasaï-Oriental: des kits de matériels de lutte contre le Coronavirus remis au gouvernement provincial», https://www.radiookapi.net/2020/04/11/actualite/societe/kasai-oriental-des-kits-de-materiels, acceeded, 12 April 2020.