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DR Congo blames 12 deaths on river contamination by Angola

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) said Friday that 12 people have died since July due to contamination of the Kasai and Tshikapa rivers following the spillage of liquid from mines in Angola.

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"This is the number we have so far; 12 people have died because of the contamination of these rivers, which can no longer be used until they are disinfected," DRCongo Environment Ministry spokesman Michel Koyakpa told Spanish news agency, Efe.

"Fishermen are stopped and many fish and other species have died, not to mention other dangers to the ecosystem," the spokesman added.

The Congolese government, which says the international companies operating Angola's Catoca mine, the world's fourth largest diamond producing mine, are to blame for the spills, is asking the country and the companies for compensation for the damage.

"After the hard work done, the Government of the sister Republic of Angola and the Catoca mining company have acknowledged their responsibility in this drama, for which we demand compensation," the spokesman said.

In a press conference, the Minister of Environment of DRCongo, Eve Bazaiba, also expressed indignation over what happened and stressed that the Angolan government and the company had recognized their responsibility for the contamination of rivers.

The contamination of the rivers began to be noticed since July and, besides the deaths, caused diarrhea to the inhabitants of the entire region served by the rivers.

Located in northeast Angola, the Catoca diamond mine is in the hands of an international consortium of mining companies, called Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, which includes the state-owned Endiama, the Chinese Lev Leviev International and the Russian Alrosa.

The consortium is responsible for extracting more than three-quarters of the diamonds in Angola, according to Efe.