Written by Staff Writer
Jeff Orlowski, CNN
Five Chinese nationals were kidnapped by armed men near their gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, a Congolese security official told AFP.
An attack occurred outside Kongo Central, the mining hub of North Kivu province.
The group of five was kidnapped during the attack, according to Jerome Mushobekwa, spokesman for the security agency Kisinza.
The kidnapping is not related to any internal Congo political dispute, said Fadili Bangi, a spokesperson for the Kinshasa-based Chamber of Commerce and Industry of DRC. “No doubt they kidnapped these Chinese to control the value of their mineralization resources and to also seize their profit from mining.”
Frustration is high in the Democratic Republic of Congo after years of fighting and rampant corruption. Credit: Sergio Mendes/Getty Images
According to Mingson Chen, CEO of China’s Guangdong Jinwosheng & Sons Co. which is mining in Congo, the men were transporting gold in the direction of South Kivu when they were attacked.
A helicopter and forces from Congo’s military, UN mission MONUSCO and the Chinese embassy arrived at the scene later, he said.
On June 1, President Joseph Kabila signed into law a new mining code, raising royalties and offering an added ten percent of the value of the ore to investors.
The clause is the focus of growing opposition by many foreign mining companies operating in Congo.
Congo produces two-thirds of the world’s cobalt, an essential element in electronics and nuclear reactors. Some recent incidents at lithium mines in the southern Congo spurred the suspension of thousands of Chinese jobs.
The separatist Katanga People’s Liberation Army-People’s Guerilla Faction attacked a Chinese mines company, Chuangjihe (also known as Dynacom China), in Katanga in 2014, killing 32. Earlier that year, eight Chinese workers were killed in a simultaneous attack on a Chinese-run nickel mine in Kasai, in the southeast of the vast central African nation.
Other attacks on mines have involved armed militia groups in Congo.
It isn’t clear what effect the gold mining and mineralization may have on the Congo’s finances. The country recently entered a period of national and international uncertainty with the presidential election this weekend of Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil Corp. executive who is backed by Kinshasa, and Kabila’s 36-year-old preferred successor, Tshisekedi.
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Given the many unknowns, Meng Baez-Bendi, a mining analyst, told CNN that “the Chinese are less likely to be deterred from investing in Congo than a European government, even after having had numerous political and security concerns.”
“Congo is very unstable for a number of reasons,” said Baez-Bendi. “As Congolese and multinationals, we feel a lot of risks associated with the country.”
Kongo is a diamond mining hub. Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Information from the Kinshasa chamber suggests that mining revenues are growing. Congo raked in $3.6 billion in mining revenues in 2017, up from $3.3 billion in 2016, according to the national statistics agency.
Yong Haoda, president of the chamber, put the value of Congo’s mineral industry, including gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and iron ore, at $30 billion for 2016, which was up from $27 billion in 2015.
“(Companies) cannot understand why only a handful of our miners could lose so much money, the cost of fire fighting … our main revenue sources has suffered heavy losses,” Baez-Bendi said.