I was a young girl in the 1990’s when multinational companies came to Lualaba. Their arrival and the liberalization of the Congolese mining sector in 2002 facilitated the quasi-privatization of Gécamines, our national mining company. The profit from Gécamines provided for the basic government social services given to local communities. With quasi-privatization however came the end of these services. People in our communities also lost their jobs. Foreign mining companies did not hire local people beyond manual labour because they said we did not have the necessary qualifications.
Families, including my own, fell into hard times. Our poverty was in great contrast to the multinationals who got richer by taking our country’s wealth. Left to fend for ourselves, many of us went into artisanal or subsistence mining. This meant digging by hand for copper and cobalt ores contaminated with uranium. Our challenges were numerous: financial insecurity, forcible displacement, health issues due to radiation exposure and contact with contaminated water.