JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the vast war-torn country in the heart of Africa, has fascinated the world’s miners for decades. Its reputation for violence and corruption has long deterred most investors – but a growing number of Canadian miners are now convinced that the rewards outweigh the risks.
Companies such as Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Banro Corp. and Alphamin Resources Corp. are expanding their operations in Congo, betting that the country’s huge mineral resources and improving transport links will unlock profits. Political unrest and lawlessness, however, are still major concerns for many companies in the country.
Congo’s enormous mineral wealth has been estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. With more than 1,100 minerals and precious metals identified, including the world’s largest cobalt reserves and huge deposits of gold and copper, it has “the potential to become one of the richest countries on the African continent and a driver of African growth,” the World Bank says.
Toronto-based Banro has been mining in the eastern region of Congo since 2012, when it created the country’s first modern gold mine. It produced nearly 200,000 ounces of gold at its two mines last year, and it forecasts production of up to 240,000 ounces this year. But recent outbreaks of violence at its two sites have cast a shadow over its operations.
In an incident last month, three mine police officers and a robber were killed when a group of armed robbers tried to enter the gate of Banro’s Twangiza mine site. A few weeks later, on March 2, suspected militiamen kidnapped five workers at Banro’s Namoya mine site, including a French national, a Tanzanian and three Congolese.
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