Saturday 23 February 2019

Sulphuric acid spill kills at least twenty in Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least twenty people have died after a truck carrying sulphuric acid shed its load onto two minibuses filled with passengers in Lualaba Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, at about 6.00 pm local time on Wednesday 20 February 2018. A further none people were injured in the event, which happened as the truck was carrying the acid to the Glencore-operated Mutanda Mine (which produces cobalt and copper) near Kolwezi, though it is understood to have been owned by a subcontractor rather than the mining company itself.

The approximate location of the 20 February 2019 Lualaba acid spill. Google Maps.

Sulphuric acid, H2SO4, is a highly corrosive dibasic acid (an acid in which each acid molecule can donate two hydrogen ions, making it twice as corrosive as a monobasic acid, such as hydrochloric acid) at the same concentration). At very high concentrations it will react with water, and when diluted remains highly corrosive. Spills of such an acid are, obviously, extremely harmful to anything in the immediate vicinity, though because it is so highly reactive it seldom persists in the environment (though reactions of sulphuric acid often give rise to other sulphur compounds that are themselves harmful).

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