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Congo Suspends Negotiations on Mining Deals

VOA News - April 2, 2007

Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended all negotiations on mining contracts, while reviews existing deals. Home to a 10th of the world's copper, with substantial gold, diamond and cobalt deposits, Congo has attracted billions of dollars of mining investment in recent years. Franz Wild has the details for VOA from Kinshasa.

Government officials are not to engage in any negotiations over mining contracts until further notice, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said in a ministerial order seen by VOA.

Since taking office a month ago, Kabwelulu has established a commission to review all existing contracts. He said this process should be completed before further deals are made.

Non-governmental organizations say corrupt officials signed off on many of the lucrative agreements made under shady circumstances during Congo's recent transition period.

Kabwelulu's commission will recommend modifications to deals that are unfair to the state. The government will then discuss possible changes with the companies concerned. No contracts will be annulled.

He said companies must submit all documents relating to their deals by Wednesday. Any breach of his instructions will be considered an "economic crime" and incur "severe punishment".

Congo's first democratic government in four decades hopes its mining sector will power the war-torn country's renewal. Two civil wars left four million people dead between 1996 and 2003.

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