In DRC, Pact and private-sector partners help thousands of artisanal miners to improve health, safety and legal compliance

February 6, 2024
Mining OSHA
A project supported awareness-raising session is held at a mine site in DRC to teach miners about health, hygiene and safety practices and the mining code in early 2023. Credit: BEPAT

Bitala Mushoga is a father of five who supports his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an artisanal miner. He is a member of the Mining Cooperative for Community Development of North Kivu (COMIDECONOKI). Like the other miners in his cooperative, for a long time, he mined without protective equipment. Every day, he set to work knowing how dangerous it was. 

“When I got to the tunnel face, I used to wonder whether I was going to make it out alive,” says Mushoga, 46. “I was exposed to several risks. I could bump my head against the roof of the pit, fall through the rock fragments inside the pit and die.”

With support from Pact and local NGO partner BEPAT, through the Responsible Sourcing Project, Mushoga and the rest of his cooperative have made important changes. The miners now have personal protective equipment, and they received valuable training on occupation health and safety. The Responsible Sourcing Project is funded by AOC International (Europe) B.V. and MMD-Monitors & Displays Nederland B.V.

“With this and other safety measures, my colleagues and I are now safe from dangers inside our pits,” Mushoga says. 

Recently completed, the Responsible Sourcing Project reached more than 7,200 miners, 400 government agents and 700 community members throughout its three years of programming. This included a total of 3,914 mining operators and community members (3,369 men and 545 women) in 2023.

Overall, the project was successful in working with government, industry and artisanal miners to improve miners’ health, hygiene and safety (OHS) at mining sites through training and awareness-raising activities. The project focused on the application of the 2018 DRC Mining Code and artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). With the project’s support, ASM operators took ownership of the guidance, which aims to increase their safety and productivity.

Continued successful progress was achieved in the last year of project implementation, including project partners’ increased capacity to disseminate the mining code and regulations. The project increased miners’ awareness on the worst forms of child labor and improved their ability to denounce abuse and violence through the organization of 128 awareness raising sessions to popularize the mining code and regulations, and the distribution of 250 simplified mining code manuals. 

A project supported awareness-raising session is held at a mine site in DRC to teach miners about health, hygiene and safety practices and the mining code in early 2023. Credit: BEPAT

Key stakeholders, including mining cooperatives, state services, the mining police and mining communities’ residents, now know their responsibilities regarding responsible mining. Mineral traders understand the importance of acquiring their traders’ cards, and ASM stakeholders, including communities living around mining sites, are now well acquainted with the texts governing artisanal and small-scale mining. The various government services, including SAEMAPE, also strengthened and supported awareness raising among ASM stakeholders and communities living near mining sites to ensure compliance with the legislation governing ASM. 

Thanks to the project's numerous awareness-raising campaigns, in the five target mining sectors (Kibabi, Matanda, Shasha, Karuba and Ngungu), there were many examples of ASM operators undertaking activities to ensure compliance and application of the mining code. For example, partner mining cooperatives became involved in rehabilitating key community feeder roads used for transporting ore and farm produce, as well as constructing bridges linking mining areas. Thanks to awareness raising implemented by their cooperatives, miners are now acquiring legal documents and are denouncing and combating mining fraud.

Last year’s awareness-raising sessions on OHS were organized with the participation of artisanal miners, mining community members and mining state services, including SAEMAPE and the mines police. The sessions discussed several aspects of OHS at mining sites, including keeping an OHS register and following up with corrective actions; communicating and signposting hazards on sites; raising the importance of wearing personal protection equipment (PPE); underground ventilation to combat asphyxiation; dewatering and stopping groundwater ingress and shaft drownings; shaft lining and support; mine safety and measures to protect against cave-ins, landslides and shaft collapses; open-cast mining and stabilization of stopes; occupational hygiene; waste rock management and environmental protection; first aid and the construction of latrines on sites to combat the risk of diarrhea diseases; the construction of sheds and first-aid posts on sites; the ban on night mining; and reminders of the accidents that can occur when working at night.

For miners like Mushoga, the improvements in his profession have made all the difference. 

“I would like to thank the leaders of my cooperative who thought of us after the many awareness-raising interventions,” he says. “I hope the cooperative will find more ways to equip other mining operators.”