This land is my land

Despite the pre-election violence that has begun in the DRC, the world’s mining companies are heading for the country like packs of hungry wolves. But they are not the only ones chasing cobalt and copper. Tension is forming in Katanga and Kivu provinces between local miners who have been working the mines themselves and who want to keep out the big companies that are want to return under Joseph Kabilia’s privatisation programme “encouraged by the World Bank. Of the 70,000 miners in Katanga alone many are children who crawl in the small tunnels dug by men to collect the copper.

An angry crowd of men and children surrounds each new delegation as it arrives at the Ruashi mine in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The miners are thin and their faces white with dust, but their voices are strong as they sing: “This land belonged to our ancestors, its copper belongs to us”.

Colette Braeckman of Le Monde Diplomatique writes an excellent article detailing the long history of mining and the shady world of dubuously legal mining contracts that favour the international companies in the DRC.

American Mineral Fields, the Australian company Russel Resources and Zimbabwe’s Ridgepointe Overseas funded Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s military campaign, and later the DRC’s political and administrative reconstruction. In return they obtained agreements for three Gecamines sites, to mining resources at Mongbwalu (1) in the northeastern province of Ituri, and to the diamond concessions in Kisangani.

Some of the new mining multinationals that will be challenging local miners are BHP Billiton (copper), Anglo Gold which despite dirty dealings with local militia, insists it will remain in the country, and Rio Tinto has said it “is turning to Africa for new resources. Others are Tenke Mining Corporation, Adastra Minerals and its suitor, First Quantum Minerals, Banro Corporation, and Katanga Minerals. The stakes are high as the sums of money to be made by the multinationals are huge with the risk of corruption amongst the newly elected government also high. The presence of militias and indigenous miners alongside multiantionals and the liklihood of a corrupt tyrannical goverment under the leadership of Joseph Kabila, does not bode well for the people of the DRC.

Links: Looting of Congo