Kivu should become a mining hotspot, Minister Professor Anselme Paluku Kitakya, North Kivu Minister of Mines, Electricity, Small and Medium Enterprises, Industry, and Hydrocarbons told Leon Louw in Goma, DRC, recently.
What is your department doing to encourage mining in North Kivu?
It is important to educate stakeholders in Kivu about the mining code and the legal framework, and to encourage investors, whether it is local Congolese investors, provincial investors, or foreign investors. At the provincial level we handle several procedures around formulising people’s permission, authority to mine, and particularly, to produce and to export.
We aim to be a link between the national and local level for the mining industry. The principal decisions about authorisation and permits are made in Kinshasa by the national government, but we are the relay to make sure those are being implemented correctly at provincial level. Our function is really to manage the mining environment in North Kivu.
What is the significance of Alphamin’s Bisie Tin Project, both for the region and the country?
You need to contextualise mining in North Kivu. Mining operations were nationalised in the DRC (then Zaire) in the early 1970s. As a result, the state-owned gold mining company Sokim was established. Historically, most mining operations in North Kivu have been for gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. Also, there was a niobium mining project in the northern part of North Kivu. A company called La Société minière du Kivu (SomiKivu) operated in the area.
Most of these enterprises, however, struggled with management and economic problems, and failed. They went bankrupt and after that, artisanal miners took over most operations.
Through the years it has become more structured as government reorganised artisanal miners into cooperatives. But the production remained legal and illegal at the same time. So, the period before and just after the 1970s was characterised by malfunctioning mining companies, followed by the period of artisanal mining. What we are seeing now with the entrance of Alphamin, is the emergence of a real industrial mining sector in North Kivu.
Alphamin represents a huge change in the whole mining sector in North Kivu. This explains the enthusiasm of the national and provincial government in supporting the company. The mining project will generate employment and tax revenue nationally and provincially. Alphamin has shown that foreign investors have faith in North Kivu and the DRC, despite negative perceptions.
How important is the mining sector to your economy and how much does it contribute? What measures have you implemented to invigorate the sector?
If you compare the historical contributions of the structured mining sector with the artisanal mining, we have to be honest: we lost a lot in that transition. Agriculture is the biggest industry in the DRC in monetary terms. The country exports agricultural goods as well as forestry products. At this point, mining is probably the third-largest industry after agriculture and commercial trade.
Tin, tantalum, and tungsten are the minerals that is the most exploited and produced in the eastern parts of the DRC; gold as well. Honestly, gold production as it is done in North Kivu today, completely escapes our control — it is traffic smuggling without control. The province exports between 1 000 and 1 200 tonnes of cassiterite (tin) per month, and less than 800 tonnes of tantalum or coltan. Coltan is short for columbite-tantalite, known industrially as tantalite.
What is the exact split between North Kivu Mining and national mining in terms of respective responsibilities?
In principle, the application for a permit should be generated locally and then submitted nationally. In reality, decisions are made at national level and the provincial authorities normally just assists.
Is a new mining law in the pipeline?
The National Minister of Mines has submitted a revised mining code, but it has not been implemented yet. In Kinshasa we have a bicameral system, and a number of deputies in parliament have raised concerns about the revisions. The National Mining Minister will respond to those and that will be sent to the senate. There is thus a formal process for review legislation.
Several mining companies, including Randgold, are not very happy about the revisions, and have argued that the revised mining law is not investor friendly. Is that true?
Yes, there is a general perception that industrial mining operators do not see the revisions as being good for them. That has resulted in a lot of critical input from the National Business Chamber. The proposals will not pass without some degree of consensus, so that is still in the process of being accepted.