A group of villagers in southern Chad, who claim a number of accidents by British mining giant Glencore poisoned their drinking water, harming people and destroying farmland, are to confront company representatives in mediation after the UK government accepted their human rights complaint.
At least 15 people suffered burns in September 2018 when an earth bank supporting a wastewater basin the size of 34 Olympic-sized pools collapsed. It was part of Glencore UK’s oil concession in Badila, and the waste flowed across the land of the farmers living in the area, ending up in the Nya Pende River, the primary water source.
“Everyone who used the water to clean their clothes, to wash, they were all complaining that things are not as they were before that spill,” says Delphine Kemneloum Djiraïbé, a lawyer with Public Interest Law Center (PILC) based in N’Djamena, Chad who is one of the groups representing the villagers, who are primarily subsistence farmers.
A traditional leader and five others a few weeks later reported they saw an oil feeder pipe that was leaking oil, just meters from the Nya Pende River. While some of the 18,000 residents in the area were directly burned by the wastewater, others had skin lesions and pustules just a few weeks after the two incidents when they used the water to bathe in.
Those who used or drank the water reported suffering from internal pain, including stomach aches, and vomiting. A number of people were hospitalized, including two children, according to the complaint. “At the beginning of the oil spill, we tried to engage with Glencore and we were ignored,” Djiraïbé tells the Africa Calling podcast. Fish were found floating in the oil spilled in the river, she says, and the villagers who ate this fish became ill. Many were itching all over and had nausea and diarrhea.