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DRC Government Reviews Mining Contracts


Democratic Republic of Congo's government says it will not publish results of a review of more than 60 mining contracts but will work directly with the mining companies to renegotiate terms. The government has forbidden mining in one mineral-rich eastern region, saying mining was being conducted illegally there. Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar with additional reporting by Eddy Isango.

After reviewing more than 60 mining contracts in unstable, but resource-rich DRC, a government commission has recommended that nearly every contract be renegotiated, at least to some degree. But the specific recommendations of the commission will not be released to the public.

Mining Minister Martin Kabwelulu says a panel of ministers will work directly with the mining companies to address the commission's concerns.

For example, Kabwelulu says all mining companies should have done a feasibility study before signing contracts, but the majority did not.

Many of the deals were originally negotiated during Congo's chaotic civil war, which officially ended in 2003.

Without the feasibility study, Kabwelulu says it was up to the private company to decide, for instance, the level of investment the company would make in the surrounding community

He says now the DRC government will work with mining companies to prepare feasibility studies to ensure the contracts benefit the local population as well as the Congolese state.

Kabwelulu says he does not expect the government will have to revoke any contracts.

He says the government will attempt to come to an understanding with all mining companies. He says this is not the moment to chase anyone away, and that the government needs to work with everyone.

The government has forbidden all mining activity in the Walikale region, a key area for the mining of coltan, a mineral used in the production of cell phones. The forested area, in Congo's far east, is a site of ongoing conflict between local militias, Rwandan-backed fighters, Congolese soldiers, and others, as each group tries to gain control of the mineral wealth there.

Kabwelulu says mining permits in Walikale are only for research purposes, but he says there has been large-scale illegal mining.

The government estimates about 1,200 tons per month of coltan and other minerals have been illegally and clandestinely exported from the region.

Some NGOs say the government has not been open enough about the review process or how they plan to improve the impact of mining on the country.

Joseph Bobia, is the spokesman for Congolese-based environmental and development watchdog CENADEP.

He says it is not a bad system to work directly with mining companies to renegotiate the contracts.

But he says the government needs to be more transparent in its dealings with mining companies, so that all the people affected by the agreements, including the local population, can be informed.

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