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Mining the Congo

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Issue: 46 Section: Foreign Policy Geography: Africa Congo Topics: Mining, corporate

May 26, 2007

Mining the Congo

Canadian mining companies in the DRC

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

Seventy-five per cent of all the mining resources in the DRC are owned by foreign companies. Photo: Brian Walsh/Combat Camera

This article is second in a two part series. Read the first article here.

Despite eight years of war in the Congo (from 1996 to 2003), with a death toll estimated at between four and ten million, and the continued risk of conflict today, Canada’s interest in the country since 1995 has been almost completely restricted to Congo’s mineral wealth.

Canada plays a major role in mining in Africa, says Denis Tougas, who is a staff member of l'Entraide Missionnaire, an international solidarity organization based in Quebec. Tougas has worked and lived, on and off, for 15 years in the Great Lakes region of Africa. As a resource-based economy, he says, Canada has a developed mining sector, one that accounts for over 30 per cent of all investment in prospecting on the African continent, a portion rivaled only by South Africa.

Before the war and the installation of Laurent Kabila as president, Tougas was working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and remembers being asked why Kabila was meeting with Canadians. At that time, many of Congo's mining companies were government-owned. According to Tougas, "Kabila was using the plane of [mining company] American Mineral Fields to fly around the county... he was showing that he could make deals with the international community... even though he was not yet president. One of the people Kabila was meeting with was Joe Clark, former Canadian Prime Minister. In the mid 1990s, Clark was both leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and a special advisor on Africa for the mining company First Quantum Mineral. Records show that Canadian mining companies American Mineral Fields and Tenke received large contracts soon after these meetings.

UN report

When the Congo war broke out in 1996, a number of small Canadian mining companies were active in the DRC. In 2002, eight Canadian companies were implicated in the UN report entitled “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Congo”. In it, the UN panel said that American Mineral Fields, Banro, First Quantum, Hrambee Mining, International Panorama Resources, Kinross Gold, Melkior Resources and Tenke had violated OECD guidelines in mining activities during the Congo war. The report recommended investigations by the Canadian government into their actions.

“The Panel insists that they [the Panel] have concrete evidence of violations,” Mining Watch reported. “The companies vehemently deny the charges.”

The report generated a large backlash within the UN, says Tougas. "A number of UN representatives were angry that the panel [responsible for the report] did not ask for information from the companies involved." In response to the complaints, the panel received explanations from 119 of the 157 companies involved, and in 2003 it released its final report on the exploitation of the Congo, claiming that the allegations for seven out of the eight Canadian companies had been ‘resolved'.’ Many companies alleged they were cleared of wrongdoing but Tougas points out that the report’s use of the word ‘resolved’ “should not be seen as invalidating the Panel’s earlier findings with regard to the activities of those actors.”

In response to the UN report, l'Entraide Missionnaire filed a complaint to the Canadian National Contact Point for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to confirm the allegations against First Quantum. Quantum had been accused in the report of bribing officials in Katanga province to get land. However, says Tougas, the strategy of the mining companies had worked, since the complaint was refused because it was deemed to have been ‘resolved’ by the UN Panel.

Part of the problem for solidarity organizations that want Canadian mining companies to change is that, strictly speaking, Canadian companies never broke Congolese law, says Tougas. “These companies were allowed to be [in the Congo] according to the new mining code... signed during the war.” For example, Banro was operating on occupied territory but had signed a contract with the DRC government in Kinshasa allowing their presence in the region.

Still Mining

Eight to ten small Canadian mining companies are in the DRC today. The Montreal Mirror reports that accusations against Anvil Mining Ltd., which mines copper and silver in the DRC, may result in a lawsuit. The Australian-Canadian company is accused “of helping soldiers end an uprising in a village near an Anvil mine... in an assault that killed more than 80 rebels and villagers. Foreign Affairs Canada refuses to comment on whether Canada has been contacted by the AFP or the Australian government for the Anvil investigation,” the Mirror reported.

Le Monde Diplomatique reported that Canadian mining companies Barrick and Banro had been "funding military operations [in the DRC] in exchange for lucrative contracts." A report in Z Magazine in 2006 said Barrick still “operates in the town of Watsa, northwest of the town of Bunia, located in the most violent corner of the Congo. The Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) controlled the mines intermittently during the war. Officials in Bunia claim that Barrick executives flew into the region, with UPDF and RPF [Rwanda Patriotic Front] escorts, to survey and inspect their mining interests.”

Over the years advisors and directors for Barrick have included George H.W. Bush, Brian Mulroney, Edward Neys (US ambassador to Canada), Howard Baker (US Senator) and J. Trevor Eyton (Canadian Senator), among others.

Government Inaction

Aside from direct links to politicians, Canada has other reasons for not monitoring or trying to stop Canadian exploitation of resources in the DRC. In a recent article in the Georgia Straight, Mining Watch pointed out that governments have allowed mining-friendly tax laws and a “long and lousy tradition of poorly regulated penny-stock companies.”

According to Tougas, “Most of the known resources [in the DRC] are now being found by junior (under $4 million) Canadian companies who were able to take risks... and take advantage of the war.” Today, Tougas says these same companies have a major interest in the South-West province of Katanga.

Though the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade released a report last year, the government has refused to implement its recommendations regarding better monitoring of Canada’s mining firms abroad. Today, the committee says questions about Canadian companies in the Congo are “now under the jurisdiction of the Standing Committee on International Trade.”

Though the mandate and the powers of the Standing Committee on International Trade can be requested via e-mail, repeated requests for these documents were not met.

Tougas says that although the Canadian government occasionally talks about aid to the DRC, more often than not, what the Congolese receive are more Canadian mines, not aid dollars. 75 per cent of mining resources in the DRC are owned by foreign companies. Congo is rated 142nd worldwide on the human development index and 158th for GDP per capita. “The profit is only going to the companies, not the Congoese people,” he said.

However, the Congolese government may be taking matters into its own hands. A report released last year by the DRC looks at mining deals made by the president between 1996-1998. It recommends that deals between the president and 6 Canadian companies and a host of others be ‘revised’ in order to benefit the Congo. The recommendations may not be adopted, however. “It has certainly divided parliament,” he says.

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war in DRC


Dear Sir, Madam



We are a Congolese political movement, and are hereby coming to you in the name of Truth and Justice to expose a conspiracy against our country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and to create awareness of terrible suffering that has been unjustly imposed on our people.

Because the people of the world have the right to know the truth whether it is controversial or not, and since we, Congolese people, have been, so far, clearly denied a fair exposure of our grievances in main international mass media, we have decided to publish the correct and unbiased account of events that are occurring in the African Great Lakes Region in general, in DRC in particular, through this letter.

In fact, all started after the 1950’s bloody power struggle between the two main tribes (Hutus and Tutsis) in Rwanda; Hutus rose to power, and thousands of Tutsis chose to flee their country to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, and were later on ‘adopted’ by the international community through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which sponsored their studies (in various educational institutions throughout the world) after which many of them were employed, and are still employed, in various positions in international institutions, organisations and agencies throughout the world, a privileged opportunity they used, and are still using, to get some of the world powerful and influential political leaders, bankers and owners of big multinational companies (interested in controlling most of the natural resources found in DRC) rally round their cause.

They abused the Congolese people’s hospitality as they took advantage of political unrest in DRC to infiltrate all Congolese national institutions [with the help from one of them named Bisengemana* who was recommended to Mobutu (former president of DRC) by some International donors to be the director of his office as a condition for their donations to the Congolese government], but were condemned by the United Nations which repeatedly urged them to respect their refugee status and officially forbad them to get involved in the politics of their country of asylum!
In 1980’s, all Rwandese Tutsi refugees in the world then decided to unite in a political armed movement called RPF (Rwandese Patriotic Front) in order to back up the Ugandan rebel movement led by Kaguta Museveni who, in return, will help them seize power in Rwanda.
In 1994, the RPF launched a major offensive on Rwanda, killed president Juvenal Habiarimana (a Rwandese Hutu, whose death triggered the 1994 Rwanda genocide) and overthrew the Rwandese Hutu-led government. After having savagely massacred thousands of Rwandese Tutsis and moderated Hutus, Rwandese Hutu militia members fled into DRC where they settled down with the authorisation of the Congolese government led by president Mobutu.
The Ugandan and Rwandese governments then decided to send troops (including thousands well trained men recruited among the 1950’s Rwandese Tutsi refugees in DRC and few Congolese citizens among which Laurent Kabila as spokesman in order to earn credibility from Congolese people) into Congolese territory under the banner of a ‘Congolese’ rebel movement named AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) with the assignment of hunting down all Rwandese Hutu citizens (authors of the genocide), overthrowing president Mobutu and replacing him by president Kabila from whom they will later on unsuccessfully request the transfer of ownership of a part of the eastern part of the Congolese national territory to Rwanda, before withdrawing to the east of DRC to start a new war against him until he was assassinated.

Recently, these Rwandese Tutsi refugees have united under the leadership of a Rwandese Tutsi named Laurent Nkunda-Batware, and are once again waging a war on Congolese people, this time, determined to permanently occupy the eastern part of DRC and to annex it to Rwanda with the backing of Ugandan and Rwandese governments respectively led by president Kaguta Museveni and president Paul Kagame who are presently receiving massive military, financial and political support from powerful nations, international institutions, multinational companies and many members of the international community, right under the nose of United Nations troops present on the ground whose several members have been accused of raping Congolese women, looting Congolese natural resources, favouring and assisting the Rwandese citizens in gaining ground!
It is also established that they are planning to trigger mass killings of civilians among the 1950’s Rwandese Tutsi refugees in the east of DRC (in the same way they did trigger the genocide in Rwanda in 1994) in order to push the International community to allow them to permanently occupy the eastern part of DRC as an independent territory which will be later on annexed to Rwanda!

Furthermore, a United Nations report has clearly established how people in power in Kampala (Uganda) and Kigali (Rwanda) have looted and are still looting Congolese natural resources. But no action has been taken so far!

We understand the compassion of the international community towards Rwanda and its actual Tutsi-led government since the horrible killings of 1994 which we all condemned, but it is unfortunate and appalling that Rwandese politicians actually in power in Kigali are taking advantage of the world blind eye turned on them to implement dangerous expansionist policies in the African Great Lakes Region which are causing so much destruction, bloodshed and suffering in our country (DRC).

As the people of the world can witness, we, people of Democratic Republic of the Congo, are victims of our hospitality toward fellow human beings who have turned to be a source of tremendous suffering and bloodshed throughout our territory for many years which we can no longer tolerate.
Because of this, and because we believe that ORDER is the only condition of a LASTING PEACE in our region, we are hereby urging the International Community to help all Rwandese refugees (Tutsis and Hutus) to return to their country of origin (Rwanda).
We also take this opportunity to urge all nations of the world, all multinational companies and all other people interested in Congolese natural resources to directly deal with Congolese people instead of foreigners living in our country!

Finally, we have a question for every peace loving citizen of the world: What will you do if refugees welcomed on your land take advantage of your hospitality and political unrest in your country to conspire to take up arms in order to overthrow your government and seize power, to re-colonize your people, to control your natural resources and to separate a part of your national territory with the backing of their country of origin and support from some powerful nations on earth?
Please let us know, because that’s exactly the problem we are facing in our country (DRC)!

Yours in human kind,



(*) Bisengemana is considered to be the ‘brain’ behind 1950’s Rwandese Tutsi refugees’ conspiracy to create a Tutsi empire in Central Africa region that shall include Rwanda, the eastern part of DRC and Uganda, and was charged for high treason by the Congolese government. He took advantage of his position to falsify the history of the country (DRC) as he convinced president Mobutu to ban all old history school books promoting colonialism and replace them by new ones promoting Mobutu’s ideology while in reality the aim was to replace old history books in which there was no mention whatsoever of Tutsi presence on Congolese territory by new ones in which Tutsis appeared as Congolese citizens!


I am very upset about the mining in the DRC... we watched a documentry called "Blood in the Mobile". It is all about the issues and conflicts about mining in the Congo.

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