“Clean” gold in the “blood minerals” region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo |

“Clean” gold in the “blood minerals” region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo |
“Clean” gold in the “blood minerals” region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo |

Bukavu (Democratic Congo) – While molten gold is being poured into bars, negotiations take place in an adjoining room over the price to be paid during the day, with an unusual transparency in this region of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where feuds fueled by “blood minerals” take place. Last January, the Congolese government and the United Arab Emirates launched the joint group “Primera Gold” to include gold mined manually in South Kivu province within the official channels.

For years, experts have proven that the strategic minerals – including gold – contained in the Congolese lands fuel their trafficking and smuggling operations to neighboring countries, especially Rwanda, whose relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo are tense.

“More than a ton of gold from South Kivu was crossing the border every month into these countries that unfortunately are waging war on Congo,” Benjamin Bisimwa, assistant general manager of Primera Gold, said of a new five-storey building rented by the group in Bukavu, the provincial capital. democracy.” He added that in 2021, only 23 kilograms of South Kivu gold were announced for export, and in the following year 34 kilograms were exported. Everything else was secretly smuggled out.

And in mid-May, after less than five months of activity, the Congolese Minister of Finance confirmed that one ton had been exported by Primera Gold. Bisimwa said that “the results reveal the reality” and that “a lot still needs to be done,” explaining that the goal is to export at least one ton of gold every month to the “Uric Hap Gold” refinery in Abu Dhabi.

◙ The goal is to export at least one ton of gold every month to the Oric Hub Gold refinery in Abu Dhabi

In a small building adjacent to the Primera headquarters, the weather is very hot. Wearing fire-resistant gloves, the lab technician takes a crucible filled with liquid gold out of a 1,200-degree furnace and pours it into a rectangular mold.

The ingot is quickly cooled and then weighed to discover that it is the equivalent of two kilograms, with a value of about $120,000. Prior to that, the technician was cleaning three smaller ingots with a wire brush. After analyzing it using the “MS RF Spectrophotometer”, the raw metal alloys reveal that they consist of 96.8 percent of gold, which is a very good percentage, according to experts in “Primera”, who stressed that the gold of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the purest types of this metal in the world.

Brokers visit the laboratory with grains and nuggets extracted from the province’s gold hills. Primera confirms that it only obtains gold from “eligible” sites, that is, those that are not controlled by armed groups, and do not employ children but “diggers” who are duly registered and organized in cooperative groups.

For many in Bukavu, the intentions are right, but it is difficult to implement in a sector plagued by fraud and corruption. Blaise Bubala, chair of a civil society working group on mines, said there was “a big question about where the gold comes from”.

The other concern relates to community development. The Congolese state owns 45 percent of Primera Gold, and taxes and profits are supposed to finance its coffers. But then, as Bubala asks, “what is the amount required for community development?”, pointing out that “building schools, constructing roads and building hospitals are things we always demand.”

This is also what the residents of the Luohihi region (25 kilometers from Bukavu) claim, where gold appeared miraculously three years ago, prompting seekers of the precious metal to it. “The foreigners came to steal our gold. There is no compensation for us.”

“The hill has always been here and suddenly we found gold,” said Zuzu Njango, chairwoman of an artisanal mine investors’ cooperative, explaining that this is definitely upending the lives of villagers who used to cultivate their fields more than dig mines. Wearing a helmet and overalls, she spoke of how difficult it is for the diggers to understand that they have to organize themselves, join the cooperative and get an official card. “How can I buy a $10 card when I don’t even have 200 francs ($0.10) to buy soap?” said Innocent Donia, one of the diggers at Nenezi Plouhihi hill.

Like others, he confirms that he has not yet found any gold, but he will continue digging in the hope of finding a good type one day. The 32-year-old man said, surrounded by his comrades in their clothes and hair, which have become the color of the earth they dig all day, wearing plastic shoes and without helmets or gloves.

The Luohe mine is a pilot and pilot site for Primera’s “tracking” process. The company’s managers know that there is still work to be done on the social front as well. They promised that 10,000 miners and their families would get health insurance. But they say the list of potential beneficiaries has not yet reached them. “We will tackle the challenges together,” said Benjamin Bisimwa, relying on the “political will” that is being confirmed little by little.

The Kinshasa authorities launched “Primera Gold”, but dealt a severe blow on May 1, when soldiers raided a number of buying centers in Bukavu, confiscating what they found of gold, dollars, safes and computers and arresting about twenty people, including employees suspected of complicity. “We’re scared,” said an angry employee at one center, pointing to the broken doors and scattered papers. Primera officials confirmed that they had nothing to do with this process, but they welcomed it, noting that the quantities of gold that the company deals with have increased a lot since then.