Rebounding mining sector defies DRC’s political woes (The Citizen – October23, 2015)

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is no stranger to civil strife. For decades Africa’s second largest country (since the partitioning of Sudan) has been beset by political woes.

The mining industry, on the other hand, looks to be in promising health, as evidenced by strong support given to two international conferences held in the country this month.

Such has been the strife – from the era of the military dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, in the 1960s to the current administration of Joseph Kabila – that many of the country’s enormous opportunities have largely been overlooked, but that is not the case with mining. The sector, among the most defiant in the economy, has withstood the many crises and emerged as the mainstay of the country’s economy.

Despite recent problems fuelled by allegations that Kabila plans to tamper with the constitution to remain in power at the elections next year, high levels of confidence in and commitment to the mining sector were on display at this week’s Katanga Mining Week in Lubumbashi and last week’s 11th Infrastructure Partnerships for African Development DRC Mining and Infrastructure Indaba in Kinshasa, which both enjoyed solid institutional and industry support.

Nicole Smith, event director for the mining portfolio at Spintelligent, the Cape Town-based company that organised both conferences, said the support seen at these two events was evidence of how committed the operators were to finding solutions and developing the industry in the country, even at such a low point in the commodity prices cycle.

DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt ore, a major producer of copper and the second largest diamond-producing nation. The industry is set for huge growth too. Ivanhoe Mines, the Canadian company with significant interests in the DRC’s mining sector, is building a large, modern copper mine at Kamoa, where Ivanhoe says the copper deposit is one of the largest ever exploited anywhere in the world.

Operations at Kamoa should begin at the end of 2018, with expected first stage production estimated to be equivalent to one third of the copper produced by all mining companies in the DRC. The second phase is expected to more than double that.

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