This past Friday, September 11, at least 50 miners died when heavy rains flooded “artisanal” mining shafts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The miners drowned in a torrent of muddy water that poured into the shafts too quickly and powerfully for them to escape. This was a gold mine owned by a Canadian company, near the city of Kamituga.
This type of mining is known, in nearly inhuman irony, as “artisanal mining.” While the word artisanal makes many think of something hand-crafted and of high quality, all it means in the case of Congolese mining operations is that the work of digging, drilling, scraping, hauling, climbing, and sifting is done completely by hand, in completely unregulated and therefore brutally unsafe conditions. Miners work in narrow, cramped, slippery, dirty, wet tunnels that are, quite literally, death traps.
Tragically, this is not the first time this has happened. In October of 2019, 22 miners died in a gold mine collapse. One month before, in September, 16 were killed in a landslide at another gold mine. Three months earlier, in June 2019, 43 miners working “clandestinely” at an out of commission Swiss-owned copper and cobalt mine died when the mine caved in. And that’s ONLY in 2019. And those are ONLY the reported deaths that we know about.
There is almost no better example of the never-ending rapaciousness of capitalism than this system of artisanal mining. In the Congo alone, workers are dying by the hundreds every year for the profit of global corporations seeking ever greater rates of profit.