By Kennedy Senelwa
The Democratic Republic of Congo has renewed its commitment to partner with Barrick Gold Corporation to develop gold mining industry.
Barrick said its executive chairman, John Thornton, and DRC’s President, Felix Tshisekedi, agreed in a meeting in Washington DC to partner to develop the Central African country’s gold mining industry.
Barrick of Canada with its joint venture partner, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd, of South Africa have an extensive exploration programme designed to develop world class gold ore bodies at Kibali in the DRC.
Kibali is about 220 kilometres from Haut Uele Province’s capital Isiro and 150 km west of Arua in Uganda.
Barrick and AngloGold Ashanti each have 45 per cent equity in Kibali Goldmines SA, which owns the mine while Société Miniére de Kilo-Moto has 10 per cent stake.
Meeting in the U.S.
President Tshisekedi prior to meeting Barrick on April 3, in a speech to US Chamber of Commerce said DRC is potentially the wealthiest country on earth in terms of natural resources, but still remains one of the poorest.
President Tshisekedi is on charm offensive to restore investor confidence.
The DRC’s image has been dented by civil war, corruption and lack of certainty in national and local government legislation while infrastructure facilities like electricity transmission grid and roads are dilapidated.
Extractives firms are concerned about the new mining code that previous regime introduced effectively raising mineral royalties, increased taxes and deleted a clause protecting miners against fiscal changes for 10 years.
The majority of towns lack access to the national grid despite DRC’s huge potential to generate electricity using the River Congo’s water.
President Tshisekedi’s key priority is to effect economic and financial reforms to spur development with help of the international community especially the US.
Mr Thornton said he was encouraged by President Tshisekedi’s vision of attracting foreign direct investment and supporting development of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining industry in the spirit of partnership.
“As the value leader in the global gold sector, Barrick offers DRC peerless exploration, technical and financial support and through Kibali has proved its commitment. We look forward to continue making contribution to DRC’s economy and unlocking the enormous value of its mineral potential,” he said.
Kibali, one of Africa’s largest gold mines comprises integrated open pit and underground operation with 7.2 million tonnes per annum processing plant.
First gold was dug from open mines and commissioning of full underground extraction was completed at the end of 2017.
Gold valued at $300 million to $600 million that is smuggled after being illegally mined provides largest source of revenue to armed groups in eastern DRC where 3.3 million to 7.6 million people have died due to continuous conflict.
The United Nations Group of Experts on DRC investigation in 2017 found gold is biggest source of funds of armed groups and criminal networks, and also cited Uganda as the main transit hub although some gold passes through Rwanda.