The mining industry in the Democratic republic of Congo is one of the most significant sectors in the supply of minerals around the world.
The DRC is rich in a wide range of minerals too including gold, cobalt, titanium, copper, diamond, and so many others.
In 2009, the untapped mineral resources in thee country were valued at over $24 trillion. The DRC also has the largest deposits of coltan in the planet, and also massive reserves of Cobalt.
However, in this post we are going to focus mainly on gold, especially the gold mined at the Kibali Mines, one of the largest gold mines in Africa. But first, lets start off with a small background of the country:
Background of The Democratic Republic of Congo
The DRC is a large central African country with a population of over 101 million people. it was formerly known as Zaire and is the largest country by landmass in Sub-Saharan Africa. The DRC is also the 11th largest country in the world by size.
It is an equatorial country covered by large tracts of rainforests. The DRC is in fact home to the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rainforest and biodiversity ecosystem in the world after the Amazon. The country also experiences high levels of perspiration and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world.
Gold Mining in The DRC
Despite its rich reserves, exploration of minerals in the DRC has lagged behind for years. This can be attributed to a wide range of factors. However, political instability remains on of the key barriers towards increased exploration of gold and other minerals in the country.
Since its independence in 1960, the DRC has experienced prolonged periods of civil war and humanitarian strife. The country also has weak democratic institutions and for the better part of its history, it has been ruled by corrupt “strongmen” dictators.
It is believed that during the Second Congo War, a civil war that ran between 1998 and 2003, there was massive looting of Congolese mineral wealth. This mass looting was done by rebel forces outside the country including Ugandans, Burundians, and Rwandans.
It is also believed that the looting was facilitated by certain western interests. As a result, the DRC has never been able to build a robust, centralized, and efficient mining sector.
Instead, exploration of mineral wealth in the country is often characterized by small scale artisanal mining activities that are often highly inefficient and tend to use child labor.
Modern Mining Sector
Despite the challenges of the past, in recent years the DRC has made significant investments in its mining sector. Although the industry is not nearly as advanced and regulated as it should be, it is way better than it was a two decades or so ago.
As of 2011, there were five multinational mining companies operating in the country. Canadian mining companies have the highest presence in the DRC. These companies are largely involved in the exploration of all manner of minerals including gold, copper, cobalt, and others.
Kibali Gold Mine – The DRC’s Gold Mining Nerve Center
Much of the gold from the DRC is mined at the Kibali Gold Mine. The mine is located north east of Kisangani, about 560 Kilometers from the Orientale Province. It is also quite large, covering an area of 1, 836 Kilometers squared.
The Mine uses an open pit underground integrated mining technology and was commissioned for the first time in 2013.
As of now, the mine’s life is about 18 years. The production capacity at the Kibali Gold Mine is also relatively large. in 2019 for example, the mine produced in excess of 814, 027 Oz of gold. Estimates also show that the mine will produce at least 600, 000 Oz of gold each year for the next 12 years.
Nonetheless, it still required a lot of investments to get it up and running. The DRC is still a developing country with very little infrastructure. It is estimated that the total cost to develop the mine topped $1.7 Billion. Despite this, gold reserves here are expected to easily pay for these initial investments.
in 2018, prospectors estimated that the entire mine had reserves of nearly 8.3 million Ounces, one of the largest gold reserves in Africa.
Gold Mining Challenges in the DRC
Despite its mineral wealth, the DRC still faces enormous challenges in its mining sector. First, the infrastructure here is very poor. This makes prospecting and exploration of gold and other minerals extremely difficult and expensive.
The country is also characterized by significant economic and political uncertainty. Although the DRC has enjoyed a semblance of stability after decades of civil war, the government in Kinshasa is still very fragile.
There are also rebels operating in several parts of the country as we speak. All these factors pose serious challenges to the gold industry in the country.Gold & Earthquakes - Fault Lines Make Gold Veins5 Ways to Find Gold Nuggets