Occupational accidents in artisanal mining in Katanga, D.R.C.

Myriam Elenge 1, 2, 3  ,  
Alain Leveque 4, 2,  
Research Center Environmental and Occupational Health, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Research Center for Environmental and Occupational Health, Research School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Research Center for Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Clinical Research, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2013;26(2):265–274
Introduction: This study focuses on accidents in artisanal mining, to support policies improving miners' employability. Materials and Methods: Based on a questionnaire administered in November 2009 to a sample of 180 miners from the artisanal mining of LUPOTO, in the Province of Katanga, we explored significant trends between the accidents and their consequences and behavioral or sociological variables. Results: During the 12 months preceding the study, 392 accidents occurred, affecting 72.2% of miners. Tools handling represents 51.5%, of the accidents' causes, followed by handling heavy loads (32.9%). Factors such as age, seniority or apprenticeship did not generate significant differences. Contusions were the most common injuries (50.2%), followed by wounds (44.4%). These injuries were located in upper limbs (50.5%) and in lower limbs (29.3%). 80.5% of miners were cared for by their colleagues and 50% of them could not work for more than 3 days. Physical sequelae were reported by 19% of the injured miners. Discussion: Many surveys related to accidents in the area of artisanal mining report such high frequency. The unsuitability of tools to jobs to be done is usually raised as one of the major causes of accidents. The lack of differentiation of the tasks carried out in relation to age is another factor explaining the lack of protective effect of seniority as it minimizes the contribution of experience in the worker's safety. The apprenticeship reported is inadequate; it is rather a learning by doing than anything else. That is why it lacks protective effect. Low income combined with precariousness of artisanal mining are likely to explain the low level of work stoppages. Conclusion: Tools improvement associated with adequate training seem to be the basis of accident prevention. Availability of suitable medical care should improve artisanal miners' recovery after accidents.