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Agencies Pressure DRC Commission to Publish Mining Review

VOA News - November 8, 2007

The Democratic Republic of Congo government commission in charge of reviewing mining contracts in the mineral-rich country has been called on to publish its final report. A group of non-governmental organizations says the final report should be made public in order to bring transparency and clarity to the review which, they say, has been marred by confusion and speculation. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

A draft of the mining report was leaked to the media last week. The draft says the majority of the 60 contracts under review will be altered or canceled, news that caused the share prices of many of the world's biggest mining companies to drop.

Congo's Ministry of Mines has called the leaked report "grossly misleading" and says the majority of companies currently in the DRC will remain for the long-term.

Carina Tertsakian, from the London-based watchdog group Global Witness, says transparency is vital.

"It is important because there has been a lot of confusion and speculation and suspicion really around this whole issue," said Tertsakian. "The commission that was set up by the government to review the contracts has been working for several months and we understand it has just finished its report and we believe that in the interest of transparency the government should be publishing this report."

She says the leak has caused unnecessary confusion in the financial world and in Congo, where she says the government in Kinshasa has reacted to the leak with a police crack-down.

Tertsakian says donor governments and international financial institutions need to put pressure on the Congolese government.

"Up until now, donor governments - Western governments - have been quite silent on this issue and we believe that if they express publicly their support for a fair and transparent process, this could be a very positive signal to the Congolese population in terms of their commitment to good governance and the fight against corruption in the DRC," she added.

Jason Stearns, an independent Africa analyst based in Kinshasa, says a review of mining contracts in Congo is vital.

"There were mining contracts signed during the war with very little scrutiny on behalf of the Congolese authorities," he said. "It was not a government with the adequate checks and balances to be able to ensure that there were transparent mining contracts that lived up to the mining codes."

He says most contracts are heavily imbalanced, with most profit going to large multi-national companies.

"It is like you are buying a car, but nobody ever looked at how much the car is worth that is the sort of thing - no geological studies were done to be able to evaluate the value of the concessions," added Stearns.

He says, at this point, the government is making very little profit out of the contracts.

"Most of these contracts are joint-ventures with the Congolese state so in theory the Congolese state should be making a profit out of these contracts as well," said Stearns. "Sometimes it is structured in such a way that actually most of the profits that should be going to the Congolese state are consumed by management fees so at the end of the day the Congolese state has very little benefit in terms of how much money they make out of these contracts."

There are few details now available about how much companies paid for the contracts and to whom.

Congo has a vast supply of natural resources, including copper, tin, gold, diamonds, and one-third of the world's cobalt.

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