Angola mine leak causes pollution in Congo rivers, researchers say

River with trees in the back and huts where people live on the shore
Congo River, photo: Fanny Salmon via Canva

A suspected leak of heavy metals from a mine in northern Angola polluted Congo rivers, killing fish and even hippos, Raphael Tshimanga, director of the Congo Basin Water Resources Research Center, said on Friday.

Analysis of satellite imagery and interviews show that a reservoir used to store mining pollutants started leaking on July 15 in a diamond-mining area in the north of Angola, Tshimanga said.

The north of Angola is connected to Congo. Two side rivers of the Congo river, the Tshikapa and Kasai rivers, turned red, killing fish and causing diarrhea amongst people living along the shores, Tshimanga said. There are reports hippopotamuses have also died, he added.

The spill has killed a “significant number of fish and other animal species living in the contaminated waters,” Congo’s environment minister Eve Bazaiba said in a statement.

“We have never seen such huge pollution in the Congo river,” Tshimanga told Reuters by phone. “It is still increasing. The consequences are beyond what we could imagine. This is a catastrophe. It’s an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.”

The Congolese and Angolan governments will set up a joint team to investigate the source of the pollution, Congo’s ministry of foreign affairs said.

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