Visiting the town of Kolwezi, the mining eldorado of Katanga, on May 13, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, strongly criticized mining operators for becoming « richer and richer » while the Congolese « still languish in misery.
As a result, the Congolese head of state announced his intention to renegotiate in depth the mining contracts, particularly those concluded with China by his predecessor Joseph Kabila. « It is time for the country to readjust its contracts with the miners to seal win-win partnerships (…) I am really fed up! (…) I am very severe towards these investors who come to enrich themselves alone. They come with empty pockets and leave as billionaires, » the leader blasted in front of an audience all in favor of his cause. Mining companies arrived en masse at the turn of the millennium, as successive transfers of Gécamines’ deposits took place, and there are now around forty of them operating in Katanga, thirty of which are Chinese or with predominantly Chinese capital.
However, it is not only operators from the Middle Kingdom who are being singled out. At the end of April, the coalition Le Congo n’est pas à vendre (CNPAV) published a short report analyzing the Yabiso mining project of Israeli Dan Gertler, a sulphurous figure in the Congolese business world, close to former President Kabila. On the basis of its investigation, the CNPAV platform claims that the contracts signed with the businessman have already cost the Congolese state « 1.95 billion dollars in revenue ». Worse, « if nothing is done to stop this hemorrhage, an additional $1.76 billion in royalties could escape the state coffers between 2021 and 2039, » warn the authors of the report, who compiled public financial data published between 2003 and 2021 to establish their analysis.
The concomitance of these accusations in any case reflects a more martial change of tone on the part of Kinshasa, which is determined to capitalize as best it can on the good times to win its arm wrestling match with the miners: copper is currently trading at more than $10,000 per ton in London, its highest level in a decade, buoyed by a copper-intensive energy transition.
Lucid, President Tshisekedi nevertheless acknowledged that the Congolese ruling class bears some responsibility. « Some of our compatriots negotiated the mining contracts badly. Worse, the little that goes to the state, they put it in their own pockets, » said the Congolese head of state.