A joint NGO report by RAID, Bread for All and Fastenopfer accuses the Anglo-Swiss mining company Glencore of serious human rights abuses in Katanga Province, DRC. The local water supply is contaminated by industrial effluent; impoverished communities have been devastated by road closures and lack of access to drinking water; and the militarised policing of mining sites has led to injuries and fatalities. Since 2013, Glencore has organised meetings with the Government, politicians, Swiss NGOs and the general public to counter the 'myths' disseminated about the company. But notwithstanding this charm offensive, the underlying problems have not been addressed.

The report, PR or Progress: Glencore's Corporate Responsibility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is based on fieldwork carried out in October 2013 and March 2014. Throughout the investigation, RAID, Bread for All and Fastenopfer remained in regular contact with Glencore. Among the two hundred people interviewed by researchers were senior managers at Glencore's mining concessions, KCC and Mutanda-Kansuki (MUMI). The main conclusions of the investigation were sent to Glencore at the end of May 2014. Glencore gave a written response, which is included in the report in the interests of transparency.

Among the concerns raised in the report are the following:

  • A 2012 report by Bread for All and Fastenopfer showed how KCC discharged untreated industrial effluent into the River Luilu, contaminating drinking water. That same year, Glencore claimed to have resolved the problem and diverted the effluent into a pond. However, the field study in October 2013 showed that the canal which had been carrying the effluent had simply been diverted to discharge the effluent into the same river, but further upstream. Copper and cobalt concentrations remain far above WHO thresholds for drinking water.
  • Security at Glencore's concessions is provided by Glencore's own security staff, a number of private security contractors, the Congolese police and – at MUMI – the Congolese military. Policing is heavy-handed and violent. On several occasions, police have fired live ammunition at artisanal miners, causing deaths and serious injury to miners and passers-by. Glencore claims that it has no control over the DRC mine police, yet they are in the company's pay, and their operations appear to be directed by KCC's Security Department.
  • KCC has closed the only road connecting the townships of Kapata and Luilu, causing grave hardship to the local population. Use of the road can lead to arrest on charges of trespass. There have been instances where minors have been detained without proper safeguards.
  • The villages of Kapaso, Riando, Kando and Kisenda are extremely poor. Their main sources of income are agriculture, the sale of firewood and fishing. The villagers sell their produce on the side of the main road (National Highway No 1), which is used by thousands of lorries and cars every day. Three years ago MUMI closed the access road to the highway. As a result, instead of a 5 km journey on foot or bicycle, villagers now have to travel 15 km. 

Glencore is a giant in the raw materials sector and has a presence in more than 50 countries. Last year, the company had a turnover of US$ 239.7 billion, more than 30 times the DRC's national budget. Glencore obtains from its DRC operations one-fifth of the world’s production of cobalt, an essential component in all electronic appliances. Glencore’s senior managers are also shareholders, which allowed the company’s CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, to receive, in addition to his salary, US$182 million in tax-free dividends in 2013, despite the losses resulting from the merger with Xstrata.

After the report was published, Glencore accused us of making inaccurate statements and of including new conclusions that had not been shared with Glencore in advance, in breach of the Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the company and the NGOs. RAID and its partners categorically reject these accusations. In December 2014 we released an update to the report, including a response to Glencore's unjustified criticisms.

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