Congo’s Gécamines urges Gov’t to revise 16-year-old mining code

Gécamines offices in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa. (Image: Company’s website)

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned miner, Gécamines, is calling the government to update the 16-year-old mining code, arguing it currently benefits foreign firms more than local producers or the country itself.

The company, which is heavily indebted and has consistently failed to meet production targets as of late, said in a statement it was evident the World Bank-supported Mining Code of 2002 has not allowed the DRC “to fully benefit from its abundant natural resources.”

The World Bank-supported mining legislation was introduced to attract investment into copper and cobalt projects from global miners. Gécamines claims country has yet to benefit from it.

The Lubumbashi-based miner also said it intended to initiate this year a “frank discussion” with its partners and demand a clarification of the agreements in place.

Gécamines move comes on the heels of a report published in November by the Carter Center, a US-based advocacy group, showing that almost $750 million allegedly paid by international mining companies to the state-owned miner between 2011 and 2014 were missing from its accounts.

That amount is equivalent to almost two-thirds of the $1.1 billion in partnership revenue Gécamines should have received, according to the analysis based on a review of contracts, corporate records, public statements and more than 200 interviews in which the Carter Center based its report.

The miner’s management has repeatedly said that many of its partnerships with foreign miners have provided no dividends since those companies have consistently reported financial losses.

It has also argued it had been investing revenues from its partnerships on reviving its own commercial production, but output figures don’t reflect that.

Gécamines produced about 20,000 tonnes of copper in 2010 and only about 10,000 tonnes in 2016, according to the central bank, after a brief spike in 2012 and 2013. Production reached roughly 500,000 tonnes a year in the mid-1980s before under investment and years of war led to the near total collapse of the company’s output.

Gécamines’ “disappointing production results leave room for scepticism,” the Carter Center said in its report. “While Gecamines has asserted that these revenues would contribute to its planned revival of mining production, in practice they appear to have been mainly used for other purposes.”

The Congolese miner’s foreign partners include major names such as Glencore, China Molybdenum and Ivanhoe.