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Catoca mining company refutes river pollution with heavy metals in pipeline rupture

The Catoca Mining Society ruled out last Friday the presence of heavy metals in the waters of the rivers affected by an accident in its drainage system, namely a rupture in a pipeline.

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The statement from the Directorate-General of the Catcoca Mining Society comes after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) disclosed that 12 people have died since July due to contamination of the Kasai and Tshikapa rivers, following the spillage of liquids from mines in Angola.

According to the Angolan mining company "the presence of heavy metals in the water of the rivers affected by the leakage of 'tailings pond slurry' is ruled out, as a result of an incident registered in its 'tailings drainage' system, more specifically a rupture in the pipeline that functions as a 'spillway'".

This occurrence - admits the mining company - will have caused "a leak in the Lova river and adjacent rivers", but "the rupture has been completely stopped and we are currently witnessing the process of natural replenishment of the affected river chain".

The 'tailings pond', says the company, "contains only mixtures of natural rocks, such as sand and clay, and the composition of the material corresponds approximately to the mud flows in the rainy season and contains no external chemical components, which allows us to state that this situation does not represent a risk of life for the affected populations".

According to the mining company, when the incident occurred a company team "acted immediately to stop the rupture and by the end of July the process was normalized".

At this time - claims the Catoca Mining Society - the main goal was to "minimize the impact of this accident, helping local communities and working in cooperation with experts from different public and private institutions to prevent any future accidents".

According to the mining company, work is now underway to conduct an independent audit of hydraulic structures and other production facilities with the involvement of international experts to identify and eliminate the risk of similar accidents in the future, an action recommended by the Multisectoral Commission monitoring the work.

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 state-owned Endiama, China's Lev Leviev International and Russia's Alrosa.

The consortium is responsible for extracting more than three-quarters of Angola's diamonds, according to Efe. Last Friday in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) revealed that 12 people have died since July due to contamination of the Kasai and Tshikapa rivers following liquid spills from mines in Angola.

"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.

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