Toxic Tailings from Catocha Dam in Angola Pollute Tshikapa River in DR Congo Killing People and Animals

Catoca Diamond Mine in Angola, a joint venture between the Angolan state diamond company Endiama and the Russian state-controlled diamond producer Alrosa, with each partner holding a stake of 41%, is not only the biggest diamond mine in Angola producing 75% of the country’s output but also one of the biggest in the entire world.

Catoca Diamond Mine- Angola
Catoca Diamond Mine- Angola

Sociedade Mineira de Catoca (Catoca Mining Company) in a statement issued on August 9, 2021 said that tailings from a mine waste dam leaked into the Lova River on July 27, 2021, caused by a rupture in a spillway of the tailings dam.

Congolese researches on Friday, August 20, reported the pollution caused by the leak from the tailings dam, adding toxic by-products to the water, caused the Tshikapa river across the border in DR Congo to turm red, killing hippos, fish and other animals, in Congo’s Southern Kasai Province.

Environment Minister of DR Congo, Eve Bazaiba said, “the leak turned a tributary of the River Congo red, and killed huge numbers of fish, which some people ate. There were tonnes of dead fish floating on the river and the first reflex of the people was to take the fish.”

Government officials in Southern Kasai Province issued an order banning people from drinking water from the river and eating the floating dead fish. However, it was reported that more than a million people were affected and communities living on the river banks suffered from diarrhoea and other health problems.

According to a BBC report the Environment Minister had said that the toxic leak from the mine killed at leasr 12 people and left 4,500 sick. She further said that DR Congo would seek damages but did not give any further details of the request for damages, which she said was in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle. The Minister added it was good that both the Angolan government and ownerd of the mine recognized the seriousness of the accident.

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In its statement issued on August 9, 2021, Catoca Mining Company said that no sooner the leak of tailings from the dam, caused by the rupture of the spillway was detected, the Company took immediate action to repair it, building two dykes to filter sediment out of the water and by August 9, the breach was totally sealed.

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