Aerial view of the
Tenke Fungurume
copper project – a
major copper and
cobalt operation in
the DRC
 
Kinshasa – DRC — MININGREVIEW.COM — 20 April, 2009 – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says it will soon decide the fate of its contracts with six of the biggest foreign mining companies operating in the country, bringing to an end the much-delayed contract review process.

Questions concerning six of the DRC’s most lucrative mining partnership deals have remained unresolved since talks between government negotiators and company representatives broke down late last year.

“The cabinet will decide as quickly as possible, because these are important economic questions for our country,” said Emile Bongeli, the deputy prime minister who also headed the inter- ministerial panel that reviewed the mining deals.

The contract review was launched in early 2007 in an effort to boost the government’s stake in 61 agreements, most of which were signed during the chaos of the1998-2003 war and the corruption-plagued post-war transitional government. It included deals with AngloGold Ashanti, Banro Corporation, First Quantum Minerals, Gold Fields Limited, Freeport-MacMoRan Copper & Gold Corporation, and Mwana Africa plc.

Last week, deputy mines minister Victor Kasongo said the contract revisions put forward by the mining firms had been rejected, adding that the companies would now have six months to improve their proposals or risk cancellation of their contracts.

However, Reuters reports that, in an apparent effort to calm investors rattled by Kasongo’s statement, Bongeli now says DRC’s cabinet of ministers could meet as early as the first week in May to make a final decision on the six deals.

“Even if some little problems still exist, these are contracts that are made to last. We think that there have been positive advances,” said Bongeli.

DRC’s mining-driven economy has crumbled this year as demand for copper, cobalt and other minerals – its primary foreign currency earners – has dried up as a consequence of the global economic crisis.