Glencore linked to alleged “child labor” – The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo. A copper mine is in the distance.
Glencore “still has a long way to go before obtaining the title of responsible company”, begins new report by the NGOs Bread for All and Fastenopfer. Its investigation, presented this evening in a BBC Panorama documentary, accuses the commodities and mining giant of buying copper mined by children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The report also accuses Glencore of dumping “pure acid” into a river at another site in the country, causing significant pollution. And he further claims that Glencore, through a subsidiary, may have been indirectly responsible for the violence at a mine in DRC, which resulted in the deaths of three workers.
Present in 40 countries around the world, Glencore had sales of $ 186 billion in 2011. Its CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, owns 15.8% of the company’s shares, for a total of $ 7 billion. . The company is pursuing a merger with mining giant Xstrata, of which Glencore already owns 34%. The planned merger, currently awaiting regulatory approval from the European Commission, is expected to create the fifth largest mining operation in the world.
But 4,000 miles from Glencore’s austere headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, hundreds of children descend a 150-foot shaft leading to a dangerous and unsanitary copper mine, according to the new report. Paid an average of $ 6 a day, miners are at constant risk of landslides, and the disease spreads rapidly in cramped and dirty conditions. Workers rarely have a harness, protective clothing, or even a helmet. In the event of an accident, minors do not receive any compensation. “There are no health and sanitation measures, no water, no toilets,” a mine worker told NGO researchers. “When they need the toilet, everyone goes to the bush, and when they are thirsty, the miners drink water that is unsuitable for drinking.
This is the Tilwezembe mine in Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In his report, Glencore in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: profit before human rights and the environment, Bread For All and Fastenopfer allege that, through subsidiaries, Glencore obtains copper from this mine – thus indirectly profiting from child labor.
Interviewed on BBC Panorama this evening, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg refutes the claims, saying:
“We are definitely not profiting from child labor in any part of the world. This is strictly observed. We implore the government [of the DRC] remove artisanal miners from our concession.
A declaration Glencore published before Panorama added that the group would be “very concerned” if the copper ore sent from Tilwezembe arrived at the Glencore smelter in Zambia. Claiming that it has “no involvement” in the mining activity, the company says it is “in dialogue with the government on how best to handle the situation in Tilwezembe and [has] asked the authorities for help in evacuating these artisanal miners. ‘
However, Bread for All and Fastenhopfer allege that, through a chain of subsidiaries, Glencore is connected to the mine, explaining that Glencore owns 75% of the Congolese company Katanga Mining Limited. Katanga Mining operates two joint ventures, Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) and DRC Copper and Cobalt Project (DCP). KCC has three active mines and three inactive mines, of which Tilwezembe is said to be one. Tilwezembe was declared “dormant” in 2008, and KCC ceased to operate there.
But Bread for All and Fastenopfer say the mine is still operated by artisanal miners, including nearly 700 children and adolescents who extract copper and cobalt which they then resell to Lebanese company Misa Mining.
Misa sells the minerals to another Lebanese company – the Bazano group, which, according to Bread for All, in turn resells them to a number of companies, including Mopani Zambia, a subsidiary of Glencore.
Write in the ObserverPanorama reporter John Sweeney explained:
‘Panorama followed for 27 hours a truck loaded with copper from Tilwezembe to a factory managed by a major partner of Glencore in Congo, the Bazano Group. The copper from the Bazano plant was then sent to the Glencore smelter in Zambia, according to documents obtained by the program. ‘
The program revealed that last year 60 miners died in Tilwezembe, making it one of the most dangerous mines in the world.
Workers clash with police
The Bread For All / Fastenopfer report also alleges that Glencore’s subsidiary, KCC, may have been indirectly involved in clashes between the miners and the DRC police two years ago, in which three minors died. It indicates that on June 21, 2010, a mine in Luilu belonging to the state mining company of the DRC Gecamines was forcibly closed and all workers were expelled.
The mine is located next to a site owned by KCC. Bread for All and Fastenopfer claim that for several hours violence between police and minors escalated, during which Glencore’s affiliate KCC allegedly provided private security forces and equipment.
“The situation was serious at the Kilamazembe quarry because the miners were exasperated to see that Gecamines, the KCC and the soldiers of the rear base beat and arrested everyone whereas the very survival of the people depended on this operation, declared to the researchers a lawyer who defended the civil party.
Witnesses said the miners threw stones at the police and that “the police responded … by firing real bullets”. As a result, three minors died: Jacques Mulunda, 22; Andre Mwiland, 17, and a young girl named Nathalie. Many people were also injured in the violence.
But again, Glencore refuted claims that KCC was involved, stating: “This incident was related to a Gecamines concession and not a KCC concession. KCC did not order the evacuation. The evacuation was undertaken by Gecamines Security. As a result of the above, KCC did not conduct an investigation. ‘
Tonight’s Panorama also features allegations that Glencore is damaging the environment. Researchers from Bread for All and Fastenopfer have discovered that the Luilu metallurgical plant, operated by Glencore’s subsidiary, Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), is causing massive water pollution. Laboratory analysis conducted by NGOs reveals that the water in the river has a very acidic pH – 1.9, which means that the plant is pumping pure acid into the river, making the water not only unfit for consumption, but unusable for washing and irrigation.
Panorama reporter Sweeney, who visited the site, said: “Glencore’s acid waterfall reeked of toxic fumes when I visited it a few weeks ago. Upstream, the river used by locals to washing and fishing was clear; downstream from the Glencore pipeline there was brown sludge. One local complained, “Fish can’t survive acid. Glencore disrespects people. Nobody does.” would do that to another human being, shocking.
A professor at the University of Lubumbahsi told NGO researchers that the acid in the river could cause all flora and fauna to become extinct. Levels of lead, cobalt, copper, nickel and zinc are also well above the allowable threshold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. Glencore maintains that the problem arose as a result of its predecessor’s irresponsible mining techniques, Gecamines, and the company is working to mitigate it. however, NGOs say their research shows that during the years that Glencore, through KCC, operated the plant, the pollution continued.
The Bread for All / Fastenopfer report also alleges that KCC “prioritized building new infrastructure for their mine” in Musonoi, Katanga, rather than providing a water source for the people of Musonoi. There were originally two water pumps for the villagers, but KCC removed one to make room for new infrastructure, and the other broke down. There is now no water source during the day. Glencore says KCC will build new water tanks, but that has yet to happen.
Are billionaires behaving badly? Panorama, is on BBC1, April 16, 8:30 p.m. For the full Bread For All and Fastenopfer report, click here.