Monday, April 30, 2012

The resource curse once again

The largest mining investment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should have brought jobs, growth and development to the surrounding community, but has instead brought poverty, according to a report by Southern Africa Resource Watch. The mine produced about 115,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt in 2010.

The US$2 billion investment by Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) in the copper and cobalt mine in Fungurume has resulted in a decline in the community's once thriving agriculture sector and the closure of many small businesses due to a drying up of money in the area. Since the mine's operation, many people had abandoned agriculture in an attempt to find jobs at the mine, which were ultimately not made available to locals. Furthermore, the 1,600 square kilometre concession area had meant that agriculture was no longer allowed in many areas, he said, adding that people were not told where they were and were not allowed to farm.

The company said that between 2006 and September 2011, it made social investments of $42 million. The few social projects that the company had carried out had "not brought value to the community" because the community was not consulted at all, Southern Africa Resource Watch director and co-author of the report, Claude Kabemba said. "It is like 'an elephant which passes through a village and does not pay any attention to the barking dog'." Kabemba said that as part of its social project, TFM had rebuilt some schools, although not as promised and without consultation with the locals, and had put a clean water supply into the community, although this was only at one point which was a far walk for most people. The few things that had been done had been done poorly and without any interaction with the community. "This reflects a lack of seriousness and attention to social responsibility," he said.

TFM's own report said that it contributes 0.3% of net metal sales revenue to the TFM Social Community Fund, and since the commencement of commercial production, these contributions have totalled $7 million. Claude Kabemba countered that the community could not access this fund and while the fund definitely did exist, it was not clear how it was being used.

While the company said that approximately 98% of direct TFM employees are DRC citizens, the report found that no Fungurume locals had been employed at the mine, and TFM had brought in workers from other areas. These workers stayed at a camp outside of Fungurume, and therefore had little exposure to the community. This meant that workers did not spend any of their incomes in the village and as a result, there was no money in circulation. Kabemba believed that the only reason the company would choose to find workers elsewhere was a "strategy to ensure the community does not have a say", and an attempt to avoid strikes or any community involvement. Also, many small businesses had to close because of a lack of money in the community, and the local economy had become "stagnant", he said.

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