Ongoing delays and uncertainty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are proving costly to the mining industry and to a nation intent on a prosperous future. More than seven months since Union for Democracy and Social Progress leader Félix Tshisekedi took office as president, investors continue to be frustrated by lack of progress on many fronts as they despair over frozen projects.
Negotiations on implementing the Congolese country’s new mining code are a source of discontent. The controversial code raises royalties and taxes and gives greater power to the state but its slowed implementation is a cost to progress and the community development projects it priorities.
One frustration is leadership uncertainties; namely, who will take up key posts that affect mining in the DRC. The highest profile job in question is mines minister.
The current set-up of finance minister Henri Yav Mulang tackling mining issues can’t continue forever. After all, the Central African nation derives up to 90% of its export income from mining. It’s an important industry to prioritise if the nation is to continue to build public wealth.
Miners and investors alike are keen to know who will take the helm of publicly-owned extractive companies such as Katanga area player Gécamines. Will Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the ally of second-generation former president Joseph Kabila of Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), be re-elected to board chairman as expected? Or will an ally of new president Tshisekedi and his Cap pour le Changement (Cach) take up a new role?
Who will become portfolio minister for the state’s investments in miners; and who will lead the 80% majority-owned Miba, the Société minière de Bakwangawhich was once so dominant in Kasai’s diamond sector, and gold asset holder Sokimo?
Uncertainties with gold licence holder Sokimo, also known as the Société Minière de Kilo-Moto SA, affects major public markets through the world’s biggest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp.
In a nation so dependent on mining, certainty is important.
Ruling alliance members Cach and Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) are still working out the details of their marry-up but it is at the cost of mining. Progress is needed to keep things moving.
The last major investment decision in the country was 2017’s Alphamin Resources Corporation tin investment at Bisie in North Kivu.
As always, we must understand that political certainty and leadership vision is important to attracting and advancing major projects. Governmental stability and consistency are needed to attract new projects, in areas such as gold and cobalt.
It is time for political alliance uncertainties to end and public roles to be announced. To move the DRC forward for the benefit of all, decisions must be made and implemented as a matter of priority.
It’s time the DRC worked towards another major investment and leveraged the disappearing promise of cash that appeared after January’s election.
- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org