Skip to main content

00:00:00 PM

April 25, 2024

Data  |  Knowledge  |  Privacy  |  Contact Us |

-10.737417780424, 25.856321788015


 

congo kin    Congo - Kinshasa   

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DROC, the DRC, or simply either Congo or the Congo, and formerly Zaire, is a country in Central Africa. It is, by area, the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the second-largest in all of Africa, and the 11th-largest in the world. Wikipedia

Capital: Kinshasa

Dialing code: +243

President: Felix Tshisekedi

Population: 86.79 million (2019) World Bank

Currency: Congolese franc

Official language: French

Country Profile
Events
🌐  + Countries
      ↳ None
Body

An artisanal miner carries a sack of ore at the Shabara mine near Kolwezi in DRC on October 12, 2022. The country’s poorly regulated artisanal mines have tarnished the image of Congolese cobalt. PHOTO | JUNIOR KANNAH | AFP

Five thousand diggers pack tightly together at the bottom of a crater in south eastern DR Congo, swinging hammers and picks to prise chunks of speckled blue-gold ore from the earth.

In this scene of almost biblical toil, the prize is cobalt — a strategic metal found in abundance in the impoverished central African nation. 

But the huge pit in Shabara, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from Kolwezi, is also emblematic of a headache.

Around 20,000 people work at the mine, in shifts of 5,000 at a time. The mining has been carrying on for years in flagrant violation of DRC laws and in defiance of the site's owner, a subsidiary of mining and commodities giant Glencore. 

As the diggers gouge at blue-tinged soil, hundreds of dust-covered porters trudge up a ramp leading out of the pit, their backs bent under the weight of sacks of ore.  

Illegal mines

Today, though, efforts to clear up the illegal mines are at near standstill.

Most diggers are refusing to move into the designated artisanal zones and EGC has yet to start buying cobalt.

"It's a mess," admitted a senior government official in Kolwezi, the capital of Lualaba province, who said Kinshasa had decided the zones seemingly at random.

The DRC mines ministry did not respond to questions. 

‘Glaring problem'

For the diggers at Shabara, there is no question over what they see as their right to stay put.

In 2010, COMAKAT signed a deal with the site's then majority owners, Dino Steel, entitling them to keep exploiting the pit. 

This deal could be renounced only if both parties agreed, according to a copy of the agreement shared with AFP.

In 2015 came a shock: news of Shabara's sale, and with it the expectation that the diggers would leave.

Seven years on, their stubborn presence is also frustrating to Glencore, which says it cannot fully develop its concession and that the illegal mine poses a safety risk.

"It’s a glaring problem," said Marie-Chantal Kaninda, Glencore DRC’s head of corporate affairs.

The Anglo-Swiss company is "engaging" with the government to gain access to the site, according to a spokesman, and it supports diggers moving to artisanal mining zones.

"With up to 40 trucks leaving the site to deliver ore to other companies in the region every day, it is clear that these activities are organised and are not the work of small-scale artisanal miners," the spokesman added. 

AFP was unable to reach Groupe Bazano, which owns Dino Steel.

'Vested interests'

An estimated 200,000 people work as informal cobalt diggers, making shifting them en masse a tough proposition.

"Many reforms ... have gotten railroaded because of vested interests in maintaining the status quo," said Sasha Lezhnev at an NGO called The Sentry.

Some politicians also appear to have close ties to artisanal mines. Lualaba Mining Minister Jacques Kaumba Mukumbi is the former president of COMAKAT, according to press reports. He did not respond to several AFP requests for comment. 

Artisanal cobalt comprises 4 to 5 percent of Congolese production, according to price-reporting houses, with an output of several thousand tonnes per year. 

Those figures would make Congo one of the world's top cobalt producers from its informal diggers alone. 

World’s largest cobalt mine

Glencore's Mutanda mine, which lies five kilometres (three miles) away from Shabara on the same land concession, is the world's largest cobalt mine.

But it has been closed since 2019 partly because of higher taxes and a market slump, the company says. Cobalt spot prices have fallen from about $70,000 per tonne at the start of the year to $50,000.

Despite such fluctuations, analysts say the metal's future is strong given demand from the energy transition — and which in turn will sustain the mining frenzy. 

All this means that mining firms and diggers share an interest in cleansing Congolese cobalt of its tainted image, said David Sturmes at the Fair Cobalt Alliance, a multi-stakeholder initiative.

"Conditions do not yet meet international expectations," he said. 

"But they won't improve until we invest — and we can only invest if we solve the legalisation." 

TAGS

 

ty
 

GSI
Good Shepherd International Foundation
+ Agencies

↳ None
Humanitarian Impact
  200,000
      Affected Persons

OCHA coordinates the global emergency response to save lives and protect people in humanitarian crises.

UU

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

WorldsAid Copyright © 2023
Where Applicable All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer

THE DESIGNATIONS EMPLOYED AND THE PRESENTATION OF MATERIAL ON MAPS SHARED HERE ON WORLDSAID DO NOT IMPLY THE EXPRESSION OF ANY OPINION WHATSOEVER ON THE PART OF WORLDSAID.org CONCERNING THE LEGAL STATUS OF ANY COUNTRY, TERRITORY OR AREA OR OF ITS AUTHORITIES, OR CONCERNING THE DELIMITATION OF ITS FRONTIERS OR BOUNDARIES.