Some 100 new mining permits have recently been published on the website of the Central African Ministry of Finance. Problem: Many of them are located outside the « green zone » authorized by the Kimberley Process.
In a country where the issuance of mining permits is the subject of much speculation, the Central African authorities have decided to be transparent: in mid-March, 116 permits, issued between 4 January 2018 and 26 February 2019, were granted and made public on the Ministry of Finance website. The information, which had hitherto gone almost unnoticed, was unveiled by Radio France Internationale (RFI) at the end of last week.
Although some of these authorizations relate to limestone, sand and clay mines, the majority of the permits granted (104 out of 116) concern gold and diamond mining, the country’s two main mineral resources. Among the operators who have obtained these precious sesames, the Chinese Zhong Yu Kuang Ye and Tian Xiang, or the Russian company Lobaye Invest (see below its operating permit, published on the website of the Central African Ministry of Finance); well known names within the Central African mining sector.
Nevertheless, several of the selected sites are of concern: for example, nearly half of the permits issued by the State are outside the « green zone1 » authorized by the Kimberley Process, the global diamond certification forum launched in 2003 to prevent mining from financing conflicts. Quoted by RFI, the Central African Minister of Mines, Léopold Mboli Fatran, points out that, according to article 43 of the Mining Code, semi-artisanal permits issued systematically give their holder the right to exploit all mining substances that are « within the allocated area ».
According to Kimberley Process rules, the exploitation of diamonds outside the green zone is not illegal in itself; however, it is prohibited to export them. A semantic subtlety that is not taken into account by traffickers in mining areas. If 13,000 carats were legally exported in 2018, more than 315,000 carats would have left the country illegally according to a report by the US Geological Survey. « Lost » incomes that are now sorely lacking in the country, one of the poorest in the world ($430 GDP per capita in 2018).