Mine leak in Angola causes “unprecedented” pollution in Congo rivers, researchers say
KINSHASA, Aug.20 (Reuters) – An alleged heavy metal leak at a mine in northern Angola is the cause of an “unprecedented environmental disaster”, affecting some 2 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, researchers from the University of Kinshasa said Friday.
Analysis of satellite images and interviews indicate that a reservoir used to store mining pollutants was drilled on July 15 in a diamond mining area straddling the provinces of Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte in Angola, said Raphael Tshimanga, director of the Congo Basin Water Resources Research Center (CRREBaC).
Two tributaries of the Congo River, the Tshikapa and Kasai rivers, turned red, killing fish and causing diarrhea among communities along their banks, Tshimanga said. There are reports that hippos have also died, he said.
“We have never seen such enormous pollution in the Congo River,” Tshimanga said by telephone. “It continues to increase, the consequences exceed what we could imagine. It is a disaster. It is an unprecedented environmental disaster.”
The Congolese and Angolan governments have agreed to set up a joint team to investigate the source of the pollution, the Congolese foreign ministry said.
The discoloration of the waterways appears to have been caused by a toxic spill at an industrial diamond mine in Angola, Congolese Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba said in a statement on August 9.
Reuters could not independently verify the claim. An Angolan mining ministry official did not respond to a request for comment.
The spill killed “a significant number of fish and other animal species living in the contaminated waters,” Bazaiba said, adding that the pollution was “at the door of Kinshasa”, the capital of Congo and home to some 12 million people. people.
“We can confidently say that this pollution is due to heavy metals that have swept into the river and our concern is that it is entering the food chain,” said Tshimanga of CRREBaC.
“It could pollute natural reservoirs and aquifers. If so, it could take years, decades to resolve this problem.”
Reporting by Hereward Holland; additional reports by Helen Reid and Stanis Bujakera; Written by Hereward Holland; edited by Grant McCool
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