The Burglars Of Congo’s Natural Resources (Pt 2)

After all, the US is a strict ally of President Paul Kagame, who is on excellent terms with President Kabila Paradox wants that, due to a series of hypocrisies, while everyone gets rich behind the Congo, the mining sector in the country is in crisis. Eric Kajembe explains: “A US law, the Dodd-Frank Act of July 2010, on the traceability of minerals, created a de facto embargo on coltan and cassiterite. After so many years of war, our minerals started to be considered dirty by blood, because the armed groups of the region used them to finance themselves, now many do not want to buy them anymore.

Major companies like Apple and Sony have withdrawn from the market. Only the Chinese still buy them, but they have brought down the prices “. For Kajembe, the American one was only a cleansing of the conscience without practical effects other than to embarrass the local economy:” To meet this law, the president Kabila decided last year to stop production in Kivu altogether. However, even this is hypocrisy because, in the Congo, 12 million people live exploiting the mines, so the extraction continues as before, only now to control the mines is above all the regular army, which is not paid, together with the Rwandan militias still present on our territory. The ban on production has only increased smuggling “.

With unapproachable coltan and cassiterite, because the military does not let even the oldest traders enter the mines, the only chain that can be rebuilt is that of gold. The looting is carried out door to door, gram per gram. Ninety percent of the gold in this region is still extracted by hand, from miners who work 12 hours a day with their feet in the water or dig holes in the ground with a shovel, helped by children. Miners are the absolute losers of the chain, those who work the most and earn the least. These workers earn an average of $ 9 a day. Ninety-nine percent of this gold passes into neighboring countries smuggled. In Bukavu, there is only one authorized dealer to sell to international buyers. It is called Shamamba and claims to export 7 kilos a month. However, the region produces, according to accurate calculations made by civil society, at least 500 per month.

Moreover, things are changing even worse. The future is of the mining industry, which is the authorized and large-scale plunder always by the same countries. The multinationals have arrived for some years. President Kabila’s government has concluded many concession contracts with companies from Canada, the United States, China, India, Malaysia, England, and Belgium.

If there are dozens of multinationals all over the country, in South Kivu, on the other hand, only one large international company has been granted the concession for almost all the gold: it is the Canadian Banro, which merged its first ingot on November 5 at the Luhwindja site, in the presence of Kabila. In Bukavu la Banro is on everyone’s lips, and its role is controversial. In his heavily armored offices, the South African vice president of the company, Koos Nel, speaks with the prospect of the great benefactor, who brings investments and social compensation for the villages damaged by the arrival of the mine. The inhabitants of Luhwindja instead speak of Banro as a ravenous monster, which has ruined the life of the villages without giving almost nothing in return. The vice president of Banro defends himself instead: “The artisanal exploitation of the mines has no prospects because it does not bring wellbeing, only the mining industry can bring development, and for this, the president Kabila has chosen the way of the great concessions.” In the Luhwindja mine alone, Banro should produce 200 kilos of gold per month, 2,400 per year.

Moreover, soon,  it will have several other operational mines. One gram of gold costs 40 euros so that the company will collect 96 million euros a year. It also ensures that the company will invest at least 300 thousand dollars in projects for the population: not even 0.25 percent of the turnover. As a picture of the society that for fear of repercussions prefers to remain anonymous says, “so far Banro for the community, apart from having built a couple of schools, has done practically nothing.”

The Canadian society seems to have the papers in order, and every time an injustice is pointed out to the executives, these appeal to the respect of a law obtained with the approval of the president. Janvier Kilosho says again: “What is written about Banro’s contract nobody knows. Nevertheless, the problem is with the government; our leaders take everything for themselves without redistributing anything in services”. While for Eric Kajembe, “foreign investments would not be harmful if the details of the agreements were published and if the community needs are met. 

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