What local impacts are you seeing the COVID-19 pandemic having on your life and community?
The prices of staple foods have increased dramatically in Kolwezi, DRC, with a sack of maize flour now selling for over US$50, double the price it was the previous week. Also, in Kolwezi, the people couldn’t circulate in the city for two days [during lockdown], but now that restriction has been lifted. However, the increasing cost of goods, food and other needs makes it very difficult for the ASMs to survive.
What affect is the COVID-19 is having on the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in DRC?
Social considerations – Artisanal miners are young people who earn a living day to day. With the decision to protect their health by staying at home for two weeks, our families will live how? We live day by day; this will be complicated for us. We thank god that no cases have been registered here. We demand measures to let us restart our work activities, but without forgetting to respect health standards such as washing hands, keeping a safe distance and not coughing.
Alternative sources of revenue – For the artisanal miners, [their] principle activity is what we are doing (i.e. mining). There are also secondary activities, like agriculture. Right now we are in the rainy season, so we have to wait two or three months to harvest what we planted. Again, we weren’t ready for this stoppage. Other secondary activities are small scale buying/selling that some of the wives do at home, but that’s not enough to finance all our [family] needs, such as paying school fees or going to the hospital for treatment during this epidemic.
What steps have you and your cooperative taken to address the COVID-19 outbreak?
Artisanal miners also need [their] health, [and] they also should respect health standards. [Our cooperative has] started with sensitization for artisanal miners accompanied by [our] large-scale mining partner’s doctor, who gave guidance on how to protect ourselves from this epidemic. We also purchased a non-contact thermometer to check miners entering the site to help them know their own health status.
What is the current situation for your cooperative and what do you want to happen in the future?
Our operation is shut down and we don’t know what will happen. The way that [the Cooperative] has trained our members and the way that they work in the cooperative, [our members] could decide to go work on privately owned concession [informal ASM site without authorization of the concession holders]. Some artisanal miners [have come to me] and said that they are no longer used to working in those conditions in deep pits. Someone who worked before in deep pits before saw fatal accidents. He was lucky to join [the cooperative], where we work in an open pit and he knows the advantage of working in an open pit and working in a cooperative where he is respected. He cannot have the idea or the hope to work in a clandestine manner. The artisanal miners are simply requesting that they can go back to work in good conditions [at the formal mine site]. We want to resume our activities so we can earn a living for our families.
ASM Workforce: 500,000 miners
COVID-19 Country Status: 8 COVID-19 Cases (as of 1/4/2020)1
Impact on Miners