Banro calm in face of turmoil in Democratic Republic of Congo – by Peter Koven (National Post – November 26, 2012)

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Amid one of the the world’s most troubled regions, Simon Village maintains that it is business as usual for his company. All the same, he will admit to being a little alarmed by recent events near his operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“If you remember, the M23 were just sitting in the bushes north of Goma. And then, all of a sudden, they were in Goma. It caught people by surprise,” the chief executive of gold miner Banro Corp. said in a phone interview from the DRC.

The Eastern Congo leapt into the news last week after the M23, a breakaway group of former soldiers, seized the city of Goma and promised to “liberate” the entire country.

The surprise move has de-stabilized the already-volatile border region near Rwanda, triggered fighting with the Congolese army, and displaced thousands. It is widely believed that the rebels are being backed by Rwanda, a country that has fuelled prior unrest in the Eastern Congo.

Goma is a city of one million people on the north end of Lake Kivu. Roughly 200 kilometres to the south, Toronto-based Banro continues to dig up gold at its Twangiza mine. Banro also has an operating office in Bukavu, a city on the south end of the lake that the rebels want to seize, according to reports.

Not surprisingly, investors are rattled. Banro shares plummeted as much as 35% in a matter of days amid growing alarm about the M23’s activities.

Mr. Village is confident that the company will be fine. It has been active in the DRC since the mid-1990s, withstanding multiple wars and other crises along the way.

But the M23’s actions provided a reminder that Banro needs to be ready for anything, Mr. Village said. As a result, he said the company just implemented a plan to protect its people and assets in case the situation deteriorates. He kept the details confidential. “We’re keeping a very close watch over everything,” he said.

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