MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Africa Update

Published by MAC on 2007-04-18


Africa update

18th April 2007

Areva uranium prospectors camp attacked in Niger, 1 guard killed

NIAMEY (AFX, 20 April 2007) - Heavily-armed men attacked a camp of uranium prospectors operated by the French nuclear energy group Areva in northern Niger early today, killing a security guard and wounding three other people, the company said.

Some 20-30 men demanding a better deal for local Tuareg people raided the camp housing around 250 people and made off with six vehicles and a large number of mobile phones.

The raid took place around 3.30 am at Imouraren, 85 kilometres south of the main uranium-producing centre of Arlit.

A local security guard was killed and three others wounded one of them 'very seriously,' an Areva spokesman in Paris said.

'It is the first time that something like this has happened in an exploration camp,' he said, adding that security there would be tightened by the group in conjunction with Niger security forces.

The gunmen said they belonged to a group called the Niger Movement for Justice, which emerged in February. They called for the proper implementation of a 1995 accord which ended a Tuareg rebellion by promising the tribesmen priority in jobs with local mining companies.

'For the past few weeks we have been noticing this group being active in the region,' the Areva spokesman said. 'The Niger government has tightened security -- we had asked them to -- on all the sites owned by Areva.'

One source said it was the first such raid for many years.

Niger ranks third among world uranium producers, with two large mines in and around Arlit, both operated by Areva.


US firm accused of illegal mining

Sapa-AFP

19th April 2007

MONROVIA - Liberia's main diamond union has accused an American mining company of violating a United Nations ban on the mining of diamonds in the war-torn west African nation.

"The American Mining Associates (AMA) is engaged in intensive mining of diamonds in the Kumgbor area in Gbarpolu county," said Shedrick Wisner, secretary general of the Gold and Diamond Workers Union of Liberia.

Wisner told a press conference that government officials were "secretly giving out diamond licenses to miners in the field".

Liberia-based AMA officials could not be reached for comment, but Eugene Shannon, Liberia's mines and energy minister, denied the allegations.

"There is no mining going on in Gbarpolu or anywhere in Liberia," Shannon told AFP, adding that the government had asked for United Nations (UN) help to control illicit mining from people crossing its border regions.

Wisner also alleged that AMA had recently dug up a massive diamond believed to be worth millions of US dollars in Gbarpolu, which is on the northwest of Liberia.

"The diamond is being camouflaged with the consent of the minister (for) mines," he said.

This charge was again refuted by the minister.

"At no time did I connive with the American Mining Associates to camouflage a diamond valued (at) millions of dollars," said Shannon, who acknowledged that AMA had been operating in Gbarpolu for several years with an exploration licence.

The UN Security Council in December renewed for six months an embargo on the trading of rough diamonds from Liberia. The ban was initially imposed in 2001.

Trafficking in illegal diamonds is considered one of the root causes not only of the back-to-back civil wars in Liberia since 1989 but also the decade of brutal conflict in next-door Sierra Leone.

Warlord and ex-president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, is at The Hague facing war crime charges for allegedly arming and training rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds.

The diamond sector is vital to the rebuilding of the economy of the war-shattered west African state.

Since taking up office last year, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been lobbying for the lifting of the sanctions.

But the UN wants Monrovia to set up an effective and verifiable regime for documenting the origin of rough diamonds so it can rejoin the Kimberley Process, an international system designed to prevent so-called "blood diamonds" from entering the market.

"We are very hopeful that the sanction will be lifted at the end of April," Shannon told AFP.


New Report Proposes Economic Rationale for Renegotiating Key Mining Contracts in the DR Congo

RAID (Rights and Accountability in Development)

12th April 2007

Media contact:
Patricia Feeney (In Washington, DC)
Mobile: (+44) 779-617-8447
Email: tricia.feeney@raid-uk.org (limited access)

Washington, DC: On the eve of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings, RAID released a report today that proposes an economic rationale for renegotiating some of the key copper and cobalt mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By way of illustration, "Key Mining Contracts in Katanga: the economic argument for renegotiation", analyses Katanga Mining Ltd's Kamoto contract. RAID commissioned the analysis in light of the continuing controversy surrounding key mining contracts with the DRC's state mining enterprise, Gecamines.

"The intention is to assess whether the right balance has been struck between the financial rewards accruing to the private companies and the level of control and stake in assets retained by Gecamines", said Patricia Feeney, executive director of RAID. "Our hope is to also stimulate a debate on the distribution of the economic benefits and costs of all joint venture agreements".

The report highlights two flaws in the Kamoto contract:

1. The long-term copper and cobalt prices when compared with prices based on real historical data appear to have been underestimated, which skews the benefits stream.

2. The considerable value of Gecamines' assets, which include the reserves of copper and cobalt as well as the plant and equipment, have never been properly assessed.

According to RAID, there is a need to review the copper and cobalt agreements as well as equally problematic contracts related to gold, diamonds and other mineral reserves.

The new DRC government, with encouragement from the World Bank and IMF, has announced its intention to review past mining contracts. RAID welcomes this announcement, but warns that it should not use the process to impose arbitrary levies on private companies and that a reputable international body of experts nominated by the World Bank should conduct the review.

For further information, go to
http://raid-uk.org/work/fair_investment.htm

Background notes for editors:

* The DRC's state-mining company, Gecamines - which was in the early 1990s the most lucrative source of state revenue - has now been stripped of virtually all of its assets and ore bodies through a number of disadvantageous contracts. Many of the concessions were awarded behind closed doors in violation of the new mining code, which was created with the support of the World Bank.

* In February 2006, RAID and two Belgian NGOs called on World Bank President Wolfowitz to investigate why the Bank's program for restructuring the DRC's mining sector has been completely derailed. RAID also called on the Bank to investigate a number of mining contracts, which were signed during the war or by the transitional government.

* The DRC's new mining code, which came into force with World Bank support in 2002, was supposed to ensure full transparency and ensure a fair distribution of revenues among government, mining companies and affected communities. However, in mid-2005, the Transitional Government approved three joint venture contracts between Gecamines, the DRC's main state owned mining company, and a number of foreign private companies concern between 50 and 75 per cent of the DRC's copper and cobalt reserves. There was great disquiet about way these deals were negotiated, signed and approved with a total lack of transparency.

 

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