Militia, the military, pit bosses, buyers and miners vie for the metal that’s smuggled out of the Congo.
The diggers are required to hand 30% of all gold they mine to the company and 50% to the chef du puits, the pit boss, who directs the mining operation. There is not much left for anyone else. Sokimo claims 30% on the grounds that the diggers are using the company’s permit. It has held the permit since the late 1990s, as well as those for 17 adjacent sites, in a joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti (AGA). The permits are known collectively as “Concession 40”, and the joint venture is called Ashanti Goldfields Kilo (AGK).
Uncertainty about the fate of the mine has not stopped artisanal gold diggers flocking to Concession 40. An estimated 100 000 people are now working the site. AGK’s managers have always insisted that the diggers have no right to be there. However, as many of the miners are ex-combatants from Ituri’s bloody civil wars who never surrendered their weapons, there has been no serious attempt to stop them. Instead, Sokimo does what it can to collect a percentage of the diggers’ production. Said a senior Sokimo official at the company’s operational base in Bunia, who asked not to be named: “There are so many diggers and our teams are so few. And we have no transport. So most of the gold from here goes out without us seeing it.”
Special correspondent for ANCIR
Mail & Guardian; Le Monde Afrique
January and February 2015
Democratic Republic of Congo
Special correspondent; Heinrich Bohmke (Cross-Examination), Alex Yearsley (Adviser), Drew Forrest (Copy Editor), Mark Schapiro (Editor)
Investigative Dashboard Africa