Hundreds of illegal miners protested in southeastern DR Congo on Thursday a week after a shaft collapse killed dozens of their peers.
More than 40 illegal miners died last Thursday when part of a copper mine operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Swiss company Glencore, collapsed in Kolwezi.
President Felix Tshisekedi demanded an investigation into the collapse, while acting Interior Minister Basile Olongo pointed the finger at "thieves".
"The army has just forced us out of KCC's Kov mine... Where are we going to work?" protester Leon Tshimanga asked during a telephone interview with AFP.
He said the group demanded the right to mine for cobalt and copper on an artisanal basis.
The demand is also being pushed by a collective of human rights organisations who are asking the provincial government to set aside excavation sites for subsistence miners, to prevent them breaking the law and risk their lives digging in off-limits, privately owned mines.
Security sources told AFP on Thursday that 23 protesters were arrested, saying some of them had ransacked a police office.
Last month, the Congolese army ousted about 10,000 illegal miners from land worked by Tenke Fungurume Mining, a majority-owned Chinese company and the biggest in southeast DR Congo.