Chinese state-owned and private companies have been purchasing and processing minerals obtained from artisanal sources in Katanga, DRC, since the mid-1990s. In January 2008, a US$8 billion resources-for-infrastructure deal was signed between a consortium of Chinese State construction companies and the DRC’s state-owned mining company Gécamines. As a consequence of this deal, Chinese mining companies have boosted their influence within the DRC, and the Congolese authorities have an increased incentive to support the commercial interests of these companies. Chinese Mining Operations in Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo (2009).

Much of the mining in Katanga is done by artisanal miners, who frequently work with bare hands, without protective clothing, and in poorly-ventilated underground shafts where temperatures can be extremely high. They rarely have access to safety equipment, and are exposed to a range of health risks, such as falling rocks and dust installation. Every year scores of artisanal miners die or are seriously injured when mineshafts collapse. In the past, these miners would remove minerals from mining sites to sell them. Now they are compelled to sell to on-site traders who are effectively agents of the concession-holders and and typically pay far below market value. Those caught removing minerals from the site are routinely beaten by guards and sometimes killed.

Fieldwork by RAID 2011-13 uncovered a number of serious human rights problems, documented in Amnesty International's report: Profits and Loss: Mining and human rights in Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo (2013).

  • Mining conditions are often extremely dangerous. In the rare cases when ventilation systems are put in place, they depend on small – often manual – pumps. Serious or permanent injuries are not uncommon, and accidents are not always properly recorded.
  • Child labour is common. There are estimated to be between 70,000 and 150,000 artisanal miners in Katanga, of whom some 40,000 are children under 16.
  • There are no adequate legal safeguards to prevent abuse. Guards can detain people and lock them in containers, sometimes for days at a time. Beatings are frequent and sometimes fatal.
  • A community of around 300 families was forcibly evicted from Luisha when the Chinese mining company CIMCO acquired rights to their land. The villagers were not compensated for crops and fruit trees that they left behind, and were left living in tents, in an area with no housing or other infrastructure (clean water supply, markets or schools).
  • Access to water has been blocked. In Luisha, Chinese-Congolese mining company COMILU dug a deep trench about three metres wide to prevent access to the site. The trench blocked off a rural road that had been used for decades by local people to reach their fields and fetch water. What had been a 15–20-minute walk to the fields and back became a two-hour journey.