(Corrects to show Congo competes with Zambia to be Africa’s top copper producer)
By Aaron Ross
KINSHASA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Scores of mining contracts in Democratic Republic of Congo have not been made fully public more than six months after it joined a global resource transparency body, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said in a report on Monday.
U.S. democracy watchdog the Carter Center and three Congolese NGOs identified 62 contractual documents for the 17 mining projects it reviewed that were not made fully available to the public even though the ministry of mines is required by law to publish them.
Congo, which competes with Zambia to be Africa’s top copper producer and is home to about half the world’s cobalt reserves, has more than 100 industrial mining projects. Investors include Glencore and Randgold.
Among the projects mentioned in the report were Mutanda Mining, a copper and cobalt project in southeastern Congo owned by Glencore and Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler’s Fleurette Group. Three amendments to Mutanda’s original contract were not published, it said.
Pieter Deboutte, who sits on the Mutanda board, said it was the responsibility of the government to publish the contracts. A senior official at the ministry of mines who was provided with an advanced copy of the report was not available to comment.
Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and Hong Kong-listed MMG Limited were also mentioned but did not respond to requests for comment.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which audits disclosure of payments by mining companies to governments, has lauded Congo’s progress on transparency, particularly in publicising project owners.
The body declared Congo “EITI compliant” for the first time in July and published an audit of the mining and hydrocarbon sectors in December.
But Elisabeth Caesens, who oversaw research for the Carter Center, said: “We’ve found that contrary to public perception, and contrary to what the most recent EITI DRC report 2012 claims, there’s a whole range of mining contracts missing: not a single project had all of its contracts published.”
Even when documents are technically available, access is often hindered by poor organisation and prohibitive fees, the report says. In one case, a Kinshasa official demanded $1,000 from the researchers for access to records.
Jeremy Mack Dumba, the EITI national coordinator in Congo, acknowledged that EITI’s review was not perfect but said that it had been published with the approval of the NGOs.
The findings are not the first transparency lapse. The IMF called off a $530 million loan programme in 2012 after the government failed to provide sufficient details on the cession of mining assets by state miner Gecamines to a British Virgin Islands-based company.
Congo has long failed to convert its mineral wealth into economic development due partly to endemic corruption and mismanagement. In 2014, it ranked 186 of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. (Editing by Emma Farge and Louise Ireland)