DEEP in the jungle of North Kivu, a lawless province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new road is being cut through the canopy. As birds chirp, hand saws cut noisily through trees. Men with shovels dig out roots and flatten the ochre-red earth.
A sturdy new log bridge crosses a stream. On it stands Boris Kamstra, a South African in a plaid shirt and bucket hat. “This is great road-building material,” he booms, gesturing at the stones.
Mr Kamstra is the boss of Alphamin Resources, a Canadian-funded company that is trying to build perhaps the most improbable mine in Africa. The site, on a hill called Bisie, is about 60km (37 miles) from the nearest settlement of any size, a town called Walikale.
Before Alphamin arrived there was no road connection: anyone hoping to reach it faced a full day’s hike. Getting to Goma, the nearest border crossing, would take another two days on a road lorries cannot use. In the immediate area are three armed rebel groups. The nearest government post is at Walikale—and consists of one rather squat office.
Congo’s soil is bursting with buried treasure. Its long civil war, which ravaged the east for the best part of a decade, was financed largely by metals extracted from hills like Bisie (see article). Congo’s tin, tantalum and tungsten are used in electronics around the world. Although some of these minerals come from big industrial copper mines in Katanga, Congo’s south, and a gold mine in South Kivu, there is not yet a single modern mine in North Kivu.
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