UAE signs deal to develop mines in eastern DR Congo

The agreement is reached after the DRC signed a 25-year contract in December with a UAE firm over export rights for artisanally mined ores.

The United Arab Emirates has signed a $1.9bn deal with a state mining company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to develop at least four mines in the African country’s turbulent east, the Congolese presidency says.

President Felix Tshisekedi’s office said on Monday that an Emirati government delegation had signed the partnership in the capital, Kinshasa, with Societe Aurifere du Kivu et du Maniema (Sakima).

The deal would see the “construction of more than 4 industrial mines” in the provinces of South Kivu and Maniema, according to the statement.

State-owned Sakima has mining concessions for tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in that part of the DRC.

The statement gave no other details about the deal, including what type of minerals would be extracted.

The agreement was inked after the DRC signed a 25-year contract in December with UAE firm Primera Group over export rights for some artisanally mined ores. Those are metals extracted by independent miners who are not employed by mining companies.

The Mutanda copper mine in Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2012. Photo courtesy Bloomberg

The contract awarded Primera Group a majority stake in two joint ventures, Primera Gold and Primera Metals.

Primera Gold and Primera Metals received preferential export rates for artisanally mined gold, coltan, tin, tantalum and tungsten.

The DRC has touted the initiative as a way to undercut mineral smugglers and guarantee a better livelihood for informal miners.

Militias – up to 120 such groups, according to a count by the United Nations – have plagued eastern DRC for decades, and they have been sustained in part by trading minerals obtained illicitly.

The longstanding conflict there has continued despite deployments of a regional peacekeeping force and a UN military contingent. At least 5 million people are internally displaced and one million more have fled abroad since the latest iteration of the conflict broke out in May 2021, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Primera Gold began operations in South Kivu province in January and by May had shipped 1 tonne of certified gold, according to the Congolese finance ministry.