Lubumbashi, DRC — MININGREVIEW.COM — 11 December 2008 – As many as 300 000 people are expected to lose their jobs this year in the southern Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of the global economic slump and its depressing effect on metal prices.
In a telephone interview with Bloomberg News from the Katangese capital, the region’s mines minister Barthelemy Mumba Gama confirmed that about 200 000 independent small-scale miners had already lost their jobs as traders stopped buying copper and cobalt ore. Last week, copper prices had fallen to their lowest level since May 2005.
“They can’t work, because the metal price is ridiculous,” Mumba Gama said. “The diggers have gone back to the towns, where they have nothing to do.”
Bloomberg News reports that the threat to employment in a region that produces almost half of the country’s economic output comes as the nation of 62 million is going through a deeper crisis.
Rebel forces advanced to within 10km of Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu province, causing the country’s army to flee. A million people have been displaced by war in the area. North and South Kivu together produce the most tin in Africa.
Forty-five of 75 companies with metal-treatment facilities in the region have stopped operating since metal prices collapsed this year. In a meeting with industry and union representatives today, Mumba Gama asked employers to avoid dismissing staff and to save costs by reducing salaries instead.
“Everything depends on the mining sector directly or indirectly,” he added. The United Nations estimates that about a fifth of the DRC population depends on mining for its survival.