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WASHINGTON, USA - Intense activities at Copper and Cobalt mining sites contributes to high cases of birth defects among children in the mineral-rich DR Congo, a research conducted by top universities has established, Amnesty International said in a statement.
DR Congo is one of the richest nations in Africa in terms of raw materials but lack of solid functional administrations since the 1960s has rendered it impossible for the Central Africa nation to exploit it for its personal gains.
According to the research by Lubumbashi, Leuven, and Ghent universities, exposure to toxic pollution is causing birth defects, something which will significantly affect the population, Mark Dummett, Head of Business, Security, and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said.
The government and companies involved, he noted, often do little to protect the vulnerable population from the side effects, arguing that "they simply can't escape the dust from the mining belt".
“When you visit this area of the DRC, one of the most striking things you see is just how polluted it is, and just how little is being done by the government and mining companies to prevent pollution and protect the people living and working there," he said.
When working at the dangerous sites, the workers are exposed to the dangerous conditions given that they see not given basic protective equipment such as face masks and gloves, further making them vulnerable, the researchers noted.
Some of those interviewed lamented the health defects among them coughing, lung pains, and urinary tract infections, while others revealed the deteriorating conditions and contamination of water reservoirs which are used for human consumption.
Katanga and Kivu regions are the most affected by the adverse impacts of reckless mining, forcing the Amnesty International to ask authorities to urgently set up their investigations on the impact of pollution along the lines.
“There has been mining in the Katanga region for over 100 years, but there has been tragically little research into the impact that pollution has had," the group added. "This report should prompt the DRC authorities to urgently step up their investigation into the impact of this pollution, and health monitoring of people working in the mines.”
The report, Amnesty International added, suggests that the damage may have a long-term legacy, thus the need to have stringent regulations in the mining sector to enforce environmental and worker protection
Foreign companies within DR Congo, should take personal responsibility by ensuring pollution is minimized besides ensuring human life is not affected, it said, adding that the birth defects are rampant within the country.
“The alarming findings of this report suggest that the damage done may have a long legacy. This demonstrates the need for greater regulation of the mining sector to enforce environmental and worker protections," the group said.
"This also shows why the multinationals who profit from these mines need to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights, ensuring they prevent pollution that damages people and the planet."
DR Congo has been facing instability since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, but last year, it faced radical changes following the change of regime, which saw Joseph Kabila handing over to Felix Tshesikedi.
But the Amnesty International also insists that the fortune from the mining belt doesn't directly help the local population, arguing that those affected by the adverse negative effects do not get help from the companies.
"They also need to provide a remedy to those who have been harmed by their business operations. DRC’s mining sector should benefit local communities, not just powerful corporations.”