What are the priorities of the Ministry of Mines for the coming year?
The Ministry’s main priorities are focused on creating added value through on-site processing of extracted minerals. The promotion of the establishment of a mining processing industry is crucial in the upcoming year. To respond to international market trends, we will continue to ensure responsible mineral supply chains across the sector by relying on the continuation of qualification and validation missions for artisanal mining sites in the gold industry and 3Ts, and to continue the fight against child labour in artisanal mining sites. The ministry aims to eradicate this social scourge by 2025, and aims at the formalisation of the artisanal mining sector.
Formalisation is to be carried out by establishing several Zones d'Exploitation Artisanale (artisanal exploration zones), approval of mining cooperatives, and the supervision of artisanal production by the General Company of Cobalt (EGC), the Regulatory Authority and Market Control of Strategic Mineral Substances (ARECOMS).
On the structural level, the Ministry of Mines is keen to develop its administration services by constructing a new building; creating the General Inspection of Mines organisation to strengthen the fight against illicit mining activities, fraud and smuggling; operate the National Geological Service of Congo; and create a geology school in the diamond industry.
We are also continuing the automation policy of the services of the Ministry.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the mining industry in the DRC?
Due to widespread panic and uncertainty during the outbreak, general mining activity declined. Construction and development works of some mining projects were put on hold and there was a fall in global commodity prices for metals such as copper that affected the industry. Supply chains were also disrupted due to border closures in China, the country that imports ± 90% of the minerals in the sector. On the industrial side, production activities resumed after the necessary measures were taken to protect the workers. Meanwhile, on the artisanal mining side, the Mining Cooperatives experienced difficulties due to the slowdown and the halt in buying and selling counters of some entities. Overall, the DRC’s mining industry was able to withstand the pandemic.
What financial incentives does the DRC offer to mining companies?
The Mining Code highlights an exclusive comprehensive tax regime for the industry. It also offers a preferential customs regime to mining companies. The Code guarantees to mining companies the transfer of their funds abroad, in accordance with foreign exchange regulations. Foreign personnel residing in the national territory employed by mining companies are guaranteed the free conversion and transfer of all or part of the sums due to them, provided that the interested parties pay their taxes and various contributions in accordance with the legislation in force.
To what extent does the current Ministry of Mines encourage exploration of the DRC's untapped mineral resources?
Firstly, the Ministry of Mines encourages any eligible legal person to apply for an exploration permit to carry out geological research. Secondly, the Ministry created the National Geological Service of Congo to provide more information regarding the soil and subsoil. A partnership contract has also been signed with the company X-Calibur for geological airborne research. Finally, the Geological Research Zones were established by the Ministry to be made available to the state for in-depth geological research. All of the following demonstrates the determination of the Ministry to encourage mineral exploration in the country.
What do you think is the cure for artisanal mining in the DRC?
It is important to stress that around three million people carry out artisanal mining and about 30 million Congolese depend on the income generated by this activity. The artisanal mining sector is therefore considered to be the largest employer in the DRC, therefore it cannot be eliminated without creating social unrest.
To make it more transparent and constructive this activity must be formalized through efficient and effective technical supervision by the Ministry of Mines. In the medium and long term, the only remedy is to promote the transformation from artisanal mining to small-scale mining. It will be necessary to provide the Small-scale Mining Assistance and Support Service (SAEMAPE) with the technical and financial resources so they can efficiently accomplish their mission.
How does the new mining code ensure the transfer of skills to the Congolese population?
The mining code gives the exclusivity of artisanal mining to persons of Congolese nationality grouped together within the Mining Cooperative in order to create a middle class of Congolese entrepreneurs in the mining sector. Secondly, the Ministry of Mines is working with the Ministry of Vocational Training to define and implement a policy of employment and training of nationals in the mining sector. The Ministry has also written to mining companies to respect the provisions of article 405, referring to the minimum quota reserved for Congolese employees for the different phases of a mining project and their training. Under article 71 of the Mining Code, Congolese nationals are obliged to own share capital in mining companies, holding at least 10% of the capital. The code also confers the exclusivity of subcontracting in mining and quarrying to companies whose majority shareholders are Congolese nationals.
In the same context, the mining code reserves at least 50% of share capital of processing entities to Congolese nationals and 25% in the share capital of counters for the purchase and sale of precious materials.
As we can see, the mining code revised by Law No. 18/001 of March 9, 2018 is concerned with the transfer of jurisdiction to the Congolese. We must strengthen transparency and good governance in the management of the mining sector.