KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — At least 20 people were arrested in southeastern Congo Thursday when they protested the authorities’ decision to prevent them from digging copper and cobalt ores in a mine controlled by the Swiss-based mining company Glencore.
Gen. Philemon Yav, the deputy inspector of Congo’s police, said in the southern city of Kolwezi that 20 protesters were arrested, but a local civic organization said 50 were detained.
Nearly 2,000 small-scale miners demonstrated in front of the governor’s office in Kolwezi to demand that authorities allocate a site for them to mine. Most were dispersed by police who shot in the air but some were arrested.
Earlier Thursday police were deployed to Glencore’s Kamoto Copper Company mine near Kolwezi to prevent the illegal miners from working there. Glencore confirmed that the Congolese military was also deployed in the Kolwezi area in case there was trouble at the mine.
The effort to move the miners out of the Glencore mine comes after at least 43 illegal miners were killed last week in a landslide at different KCC-operated site in Congo’s Lualaba province.
Despite Congo’s mineral riches most Congolese live in poverty and many risk death by mining illegally in dangerous conditions.