Identification of hazards in the workplaces of Artisanal mining in Katanga

Myriam M. Elenge 1, 2  ,  
Unit of Occupational Health and Environmental Toxicology, School of Public Health, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
Unite de Sante au Travail et de Toxicologie du Milieu, Ecole de Sante Publique, Cp 593, 808, Route de Lennik, 1070m, Bruxelles, Belgique
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2011;24(1):57–66
Objective: While artisanal mining takes place in casual framework and with total ignorance of good practices, few studies have focused on the origin of hazards specific to each workplace constitutive of this exploitation facility. Nevertheless, this study is a condition of an efficient occupational health and safety control in this sector. Materials and Method: We took the effort to identify different workplaces, as well as hazards specific to each of them, through the observation and analysis of the tasks, tools and the processes related to their use applied in the Ruashi artisanal mine. Results: The investigated exploitation facility consists of five workplaces: diggers (60% – in charge of mineralized gangue recovery); crushers; washers; hand-made furnace workers (in charge of various treatment processes); and loaders (in charge of packing the obtained material). Beside the risks common to these various workplaces and ensuing notably from the lack of hygiene and working in bad positions, operating in underground galleries, in particular, exposes diggers to the risks connected with collapsing parts of the mine, suffocation, dehydration or fine particles in the breathed air. Crushers are especially exposed to traumatism risks, notably ocular, and loaders are exposed to risks related to handling heavy loads. These risks are connected with the mining processes because, in spite of the similarity of tools, they appear less often in other forms of artisanal exploitation described in literature. It is notable in the case of crushing in sawed gas bottles where ocular trauma risk is decreased. It was also shown that humidification of work surface reduces dust particles emission into the air. Conclusions: Hazards identification, through a tools and processes description, has the advantage of providing information on reducing the occurrence of these risks. It shows that this reduction is not necessarily a consequence of the activity mechanization degree.