Kinshasa, DRC — MININGREVIEW.COM — 13 September 2010 – President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suspended all mining operations in three of the country’s eastern provinces, according to a mines ministry communiqué issued here.
“The indefinite suspension affects the North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema provinces,” said minister of mines Martin Kabwelulu in an emailed communiqué.
“The scale of mineral exploitation in this part of the country is a result of the activities of mafia groups,” the statement said. “These groups are reinforcing recurrent insecurity, in spite of stabilisation efforts,” it added. “The suspension is immediate and applies to all categories of players in the mining industry,” the statement said.
The three provinces are rich in cassiterite, or tin ore, as well as gold, wolframite and coltan, an ore containing tantalite that is used in the manufacture of mobile phones.
Bloomberg News reports that President Kabila is also considering suspending sales from the country’s richest tin mining region. “The head of state is meeting with the mines minister right now and we expect a communiqué tonight,” said Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, head of the North Kivu province’s division of mines, by phone from the eastern city of Goma.
Last week, two pilots were kidnapped by the Mai Mai Cheka rebel group on Walikale’s main airstrip, halting some flights to the territory.
The DRC is under pressure from activist groups and a new U.S. law against so-called “conflict minerals” to prevent its vast natural resources from supporting armed groups. Mai Mai Cheka is one of at least half a dozen groups operating along mineral trade routes in Walikale and preying on the local population.
Both the DRC army and UN peacekeepers have increased their presence in the region. A new DRC military operation against the rebel groups may begin soon, DRC broadcaster Radio Okapi, reports.