Feb 2, 2010
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DRC considers new laws for gemstone mining

Feb 2, 2010

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo was looking at special laws for its gemstones sector after taking steps to transform its mining industry, Minister of Mines Martin Labilo said on Tuesday 2 February.

The DRC, which boasts an abundance of mineral wealth, including gold, diamonds and platinum, undertook a controversial review of 61 mining contracts last year that led to 17 being cancelled, prompting concern from major mining firms that operate in the central African country.

Labilo said the new law to govern the mining of gemstones was meant to stimulate the sector.

"In regard to precious gemstones, there is specific legislation that is being set up in order... to mine them and we will have a lapidary (stone) industry, which will be similar to other countries in Africa, such as Madagascar," Labilo told a mining conference in Cape Town.

Besides tightening up its regulatory framework, the DRC aims to industrialise its mining sector to create jobs and add more value to exports as it struggles to rebuild its economy following two civil wars in the past 20 years.

But critics argued its zeal to tranform the mining sector was alienating foreign mining companies, with at least one, Toronto-listed First Quantum Minerals, approaching the courts to try and recover some of its investment.

Under the mining review, Congo cancelled a $500 million copper and cobalt project in which First Quantum was the majority shareholder. Congo accused Canada in November on holding up a rescheduling of its foreign debt as part of the spat.

However, Labilo sought on Tuesday 2 February to win over nervous investors, claiming the country's legislative thrust had led to more business security.

"My country has already started to improve its legal framework and business framework, which will give more security to investors and those who operate by being mindful of the laws in the country," he said.

Labilo said DRC's mineral reserves include 75 million tonnes of copper, 4.5 million tonnes of cobalt, 1.0 billion tonnes of iron ore, 7 million tonnes of zinc, 7 million tonnes of manganese, 600 tonnes of gold and 240 million carats of diamonds.

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