Time to review Congo's mining code

National civil society summit to review 2002 code

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

August 7th, 2012

It is a decade since the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) drew up its mining code – and there is no doubt that a review – and subsequent rewriting – of the code is long overdue since Congo’s vast mineral wealth is still not being exploited in a way that benefits the country’s people.

As part of the review process, a national civil society workshop began in Kinshasa on August 7th to agree upon concrete recommendations for the reform of the 2002 mining code.

The workshop has brought together 70 participants, including representatives from civil society organisations that specialise in extractive industries, independent experts and some observers from the industry. It is the culmination of a series of regional workshops over the past month in Kisangani (for organisations from the Kivus, Oriental and Maniema Provinces), Lubumbashi (for CSOs from Katanga and the Kasais) and Kinshasa (for CSOs from the western provinces).

The reason why a review of the mining code is so urgently needed is that it was written almost entirely by the World Bank and its hand-picked international experts with very little input from Congolese people, experts or political leaders.

It was 2001-02 and Joseph Kabila had just succeeded his late father and was running a non-elected government which was more interested in attracting the good will of international financial institutions and the wider international community than in developing a national mining policy that would genuinely benefit the Congolese.

Needless to say, allowing the World Bank to help draft a new code meant that the emphasis was always going to be on creating far more liberal mining legislation that would replace the Mobutuist public company dominated extractive industry with one dominated by deregulation and private enterprise.

In other words – one that put private profits over the public good.

Over the last 10 years, it has become increasingly clear that the structures and mechanisms put in place by the 2002 mining code are to blame for the poor management of the extractive industry – along with poor governance practices by the political elite.

But recently, a more demanding civil society and more proactive parliamentary oversight have resulted in a public clamour for a review of the 2002 code – in particular to review its most liberal-deregulation mechanisms and the many loopholes that encourage corrupt practices.

The current review process started earlier this year and, in contrast to 2001-02, the government has showed a willingness to drive the process and involve all stakeholders, including both the private sector and civil society.

At the government’s suggestion, each of the three main stakeholders (government, private sector and civil society) will conduct its own review and prepare its recommendations, which will be discussed and collated later this year at a national review conference.

Part funded by the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) office in Kinshasa, the civil society process has been by far the most serious and thought-provoking of the three parallel processes so far – a fact that is highlighted by additional support from other donors, including the UK-World Bank joint ProMines project, World Vision and GIZ.

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