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It is estimated that close to 25 million artisanal and small-scale miners currently operate globally with a further 100 million workers indirectly involved in the industry.

Human rights NGO Amnesty International has called for the withdrawal of armed forces in and around the Tenke Fungurume mining complex in the DRC.

This follows reports that the DRC army has deployed hundreds of soldiers to forcibly remove an estimated 10 000 artisanal miners from the Tenke Fungurume mines in Lualaba province to the south of the country from 2 July 2019.

Amnesty International deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson says that given the long history of excessive use of force by the Congolese army and its lack of appropriate training in managing public order, the DRC government must immediately withdraw its armed forces from the mines to avert unlawful killings.

“These artisanal miners are merely trying to eke out a living and sending in the army against them would be completely irresponsible,” she says.

The Lualaba province is part of the former Katanga province in southern DRC and is the country’s most significant copper and cobalt mining area.

The government estimates that 20% of the cobalt currently exported from the DRC comes from Katanga’s artisanal miners.

There are about 110 000 regular artisanal miners in the Katanga region, rising to about 150 000 on a seasonal basis. In the absence of authorised artisanal mining areas, many artisanal miners illegally enter private concessions.

The Tenke Fungurume mining complex in DRC, owned by Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed China Molybdenum, hosts one of the largest, highest-grade producing copper and cobalt mines in the world.