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Amnesty accuse mine giant of DR Congo ‘cover-up’

Amnesty International accused a Belgian mining giant Monday of trying to cover up its role in the bulldozing of hundreds of homes around one of its mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The human rights group claimed it had satellite images and other evidence which proves Forrest International may have helped with the forcible eviction of hundreds of people living next to the company’s Luiswishi mine in the mineral-rich Katanga region.

“There is now overwhelming and irrefutable evidence showing that the forced evictions that Forrest International has denied for years in fact took place,” said Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty.

The company denies all involvement in the operation carried out by Congolese police in November 2009, which cleared hundreds of small-scale miners who they accused of stealing from the huge copper and cobalt mine at Kawama.

Amnesty claims bulldozers from a subsidiary of the mining company, Entreprise Generale Malta Forrest (EGMF), were used to clear the village, not far from Lubumbashi, the second biggest city in the province, the country’s economic motor.

There are thousands of small illegal subsistence mining operations in Katanga, most of them tolerated by the local authorities.

Amnesty claims that the village around the mine was razed by armed police at the request of EGMF who ran the mine at the time with the Congo state mining company, Gecamines. They said villagers and their children were also chased away. EGMF pulled out of the mine in 2012.

“This is a cover-up by the Congolese authorities. The state has failed its own people by not bringing anyone to justice for these forced evictions and by not ensuring that compensation was paid,” Gaughran said in a statement.

“Five years on, the villagers of Kawama have received no compensation,” she said.

Forrest International said it had nothing to do with the events which it described as “regretable and unacceptable”, and claimed that the Amnesty investigation had added nothing new.

The events also “shocked our managers and staff, something we have repeated several times,” it added in a statement.

In a letter sent to Amnesty seen by AFP, Malta David Forrest, director general of Forrest International, accused it of “stubbornness” and said that it had “no responsibility direct or indirect” for what had happened.

“The destruction was decided unilaterally by the police and the Congolese authorities… our company gave them two vehicles under police pressure.”

Forrest wrote that the company had handed out “more than half a million dollars” to 2,000 illegal miners to “encourage them to leave … the edges of the mine”.