A leak of heavy metals from Angola’s largest diamond mine is causing severe environmental damage in the surrounding areas.

Reuters first reported the incident on Friday. Since then the leak has been attributed to the Catoca diamond mine.

The mine is jointly owned by Russian diamond mining company Alrosa and Angolan diamond company Endiama.

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The mine’s output accounts for around three quarters of all Angolan diamonds.

Revealing more details on Monday (23 August) after the Catoca Mining Company released a statement, Reuters said that the leak was of waste sediment from the mining process.

The sediment, containing heavy metals, leaked into a river, causing river water to turn red and fish to die. The effects of this are being seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola’s neighbouring country, whose borders are hundreds of kilometres from the mine.

Raphael Tshimanga, director of The Congo Basin Water Resources Research Centre (CRREBaC), was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We can confidently say that this pollution is from heavy metals that have surged into the river and our worry is that it should get into the food chain.

“It could pollute natural reservoirs and aquifers. If this is the case it could take years, decades to resolve this issue.”

He also called the event an “unprecedented environmental catastrophe”.