Canada’s Banro halts Congo operations after militia attacks

The company’s first producing gold mine, Twangiza, became in 2011 the first commercial gold mine to be built in the DRC in over 50 years. (Image: Banro Corporation.)

Canada’s Banro Corporation has once again halted operations at several of its mines in Democratic Republic of Congo following repeated attacks from armed rebels that has made it impossible for the gold producer to keep staff and assets safe.

Banro, present in eastern DRC since the 1990s, had a challenging run that nearly ended in bankruptcy two years ago. The government confiscated its licenses during a civil war that killed five million people, returning them in 2002 as the conflict drew to a close.

Banro’s mines have been repeatedly attacked by militiamen in eastern Congo

In the following years, Banro built its Twangiza and Namoya mines. The latter was the target of multiple attacks, including the kidnapping of employees, which led the cash-strapped company to halt operations in 2017.

A Canadian court approved a rescue plan in early 2018, enabling the company’s main creditors — Chinese state-controlled Baiyin International Investments and Connecticut-based Gramercy Funds Management — to become its senior shareholders.

The move allowed Banro to resume operations. Fresh attacks, however, including the kidnapping of four employees in July, disrupted mining activities.

The company ended up signing an agreement with the leader of the Mai Mai militia, allowing artisanal local miners to temporarily extract gold from Namoya’s site in exchange for the release of the abducted workers, La Libre Afrique reports.

On Tuesday, Banro declared force majeure, arguing that the violent and unpredictable events that have hit its operations justified the move.

The legal clause, when invoked, can free an entity from meeting contractual obligations.

With files from Reuters.

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