Katanga Mining, Glencore’s DRC-focused company, has reported two fatalities and five personnel missing following a geotechnical failure on the wall of its KOV open pit.

The failure to the North wall of the pit occurred at 06h00 local time on 8 March 2016 while seven people were working on the on-going dewatering of the pit in the vicinity of the failure Katanga Mining states.

Sadly, the company announced late yesterday afternoon that it had recovered two bodies from the KOV pit. The search for the remaining five individuals continues with all available resources allocated to the search and rescue operations.

In addition, an unknown amount of damage to the dewatering infrastructure in the pit is expected to have occurred.

Katanga Mining has mobilised its search and rescue team and the process of locating the unaccounted for personnel is in progress, as well as an assessment of the damage and recoverability of the affected infrastructure.

The families of the missing workers are in the process of being contacted and will be offered full support. All relevant authorities have been informed and Katanga is working closely with them and for now, all activity on site has also been suspended.

Adapting to market conditions

In September last year Glencore and Katanga confirmed the decision to suspend the processing of copper and cobalt in the DRC and at the time said it was expected to last up to 18 months.

It also said at the time that it would continue with the planned investment of US$880 million into on-going processing plant upgrades and the waste stripping of the KOV and Mashamba open pits. These process upgrades include the commissioning of the new leach plant which will replace the existing oxide concentration process.

This is expected to significantly improve both copper recoveries and operating unit costs when processing resumes. C1 costs are expected to be reduced to c.$1.65/lb.

Commitment to regional upliftment remains a priority

To minimise the impact of the suspension on its employees and retain a minimum of 80% of the existing workforce, Katanga initially followed a process of voluntary redundancies and voluntary early retirement before assessing the need for compulsory headcount reductions.

During the suspension, the company will invest in a skills development programme which will include work programmes at other operations and the attendance of identified staff at a technical school in Zambia.