JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo mines minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni plans to meet with mining companies to agree a moratorium on confining workers to mine sites due to the coronavirus.
Civil society groups last month demanded an end to mandatory mine-site confinement policies put in place by copper and cobalt mining companies to avoid coronavirus outbreaks.
Samsoni said in a statement released on Sunday that he would engage with mining companies and deliver a moratorium to them in order to end confinement while taking into account their individual needs.
All mining firms must find “appropriate solutions in order to protect both the economy, and the workers who have been separated from their families for a long time,” Samsoni said.
Samsoni, speaking in the heart of Congo’s copper belt, also touched on the difficulties the pandemic has caused for the mining sector, a critical part of the economy which generated 32% of GDP and 95% of export revenue in 2018.
“Coronavirus has dealt a fatal blow to mining activities, with the impossibility of repatriating capital, importations of products for the industry coming to a halt, the dizzying drop in metals prices on global markets in March,” he said.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland and Helen Reid; Editing by Alexander Smith)