Kinshasa – Lawmakers probing illegal mining by foreign-owned firms in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday recommended fines and reparations to local communities to compensate for the losses.
Authorities in the eastern region of South Kivu in August suspended the work of half a dozen Chinese-financed companies in its Mwenga territory, after inhabitants accused them of mining for gold without permission and wrecking the environment.
“Most… mining companies have not entered into a contract with the local communities and those that did have never respected it,” the lawmakers said in a report presented to parliament.
“During exploitation… the local communities’ fields and fishing ponds have been destroyed” and water resources polluted, they added in the document, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
They said the mining sector presented “huge potential” for Democratic Republic of Congo, but the country was facing an onslaught of illegal “mining firms and cooperatives” who were “dispossessing the state”.
The members of parliament recommended the government “restore order in the South Kivu mining sector”, by “suspending all mining activity across the whole province”, and “identifying and withdrawing, where appropriate, the rights of irregular mining firms and cooperatives”.
They asked the authorities to impose “fines on firms… carrying out illegal mining activities”.
The opacity of the exploitation and sale of Congolese gold has long been a source of concern, with UN experts last year noting “volumes of smuggled gold significantly higher than those marketed legally”.
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Gold, one of the Central African country’s abundant mineral resources, is also used to fund armed groups and fuel the conflicts that have plagued eastern regions for more than a generation.
The lawmakers also called on the authorities to create “trading centres for gold transactions” in Mwenga.
They said they hoped parliament would pass a resolution to urge the government to “fully, and jointly with the mining companies and cooperatives, compensate for the prejudices suffered… by the local communities due to the passiveness and/or complicity of the competent authority, both at provincial and national level”.
They also called for the army and the police to be banned from mining sites, but said an exception should be made for the so-called “mines and hydrocarbons police”.
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