The integrity of a governmental review of mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is being undermined by a lack of transparency and pressure to rush through the process as fast as possible, Global Witness said in a new briefing published today. Global Witness is calling on the government to publish the contracts, as well as the criteria for their evaluation, and to extend the period available for the review.
The Global Witness briefing, entitled "The Congolese mining sector in the balance", provides a critique of the process of the review since its inception. It highlights several main concerns:
♦ a lack of transparency, clarity and public information, affecting almost every aspect of the review.
♦ intense pressure to complete the review within an unrealistic time-frame, calling into question its methodology.
♦ inadequate safeguards to protect the independence of the review.
♦ limited involvement of civil society and lack of public consultation.
Global Witness initially welcomed the DRC government's decision to launch a review of mining contracts in April 2007. For decades, the DRC's vast mineral wealth, which includes diamonds, gold, copper and cobalt, has been exploited illegally or has been tied up in opaque deals which have provided huge profits for multinational companies and individual politicians, but contributed little or nothing to the country's development.
"This initiative could have marked a turning point by restoring transparency, fairness and trust in the mining sector," said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness. "It could also provide an effective tool with which to rebuild confidence among civil society, economic operators, investors and donors. Instead, the government is rushing the whole process through so fast that one has to question the thoroughness and objectivity of the exercise."
The Commission set up to carry out the review was given just three months to analyse more than 60 contracts. Although the period has been slightly extended, the government is still exerting pressure on the Commission, which is expected to submit its report to the Minister of Mines in October.
"This apparent disregard for the care and attention to detail required for a thorough review of contracts will affect both the quality and the outcome of the process," said Patrick Alley. "Huge sums of money are tied up in these contracts which could represent a valuable opportunity to develop the country's economy and reduce poverty. Yet the government does not appear to be treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves."
Global Witness warned that if the process is perceived as biased, it will be labelled as "business as usual" in the context of extensive corruption in the mining sector. Not only will the Commission's efforts then have been wasted, but popular disillusionment could lead to increased tension and instability in mining areas.
The government has not published the contracts under review (although it has made them available to certain organisations), nor has it published the criteria against which the contracts are to be evaluated. There is also a lack of information about how the contracts are being prioritised, since not all of them can be analysed in detail in the time available.
Global Witness also expressed concern about the limited involvement of Congolese civil society and the lack of consultation with the general public. The Congolese population have been the main victims of the grave mismanagement of natural resources in the DRC. Yet the government has not sought out their views as part of the process, even though mining operations have a direct impact on the lives of millions of Congolese men and women.
Global Witness's recommendations to the DRC government include:
♦ the publication of the terms of reference and criteria for the review, a full and definitive list of the contracts under review and the contracts themselves.
♦ a further extension of the period available for the review, if necessary by several months, and the publication of a revised timetable which allows sufficient time to solicit a broad range of views.
♦ the creation of an independent monitoring mechanism which would oversee the Commission's work and ensure that its final report is based on a fair, independent and thorough assessment of the contracts. The monitoring body, which could include members of civil society, parliamentarians and international legal experts, could also oversee the implementation of the Commission's recommendations.
The full Global Witness briefing, "The Congolese mining sector in the balance", is available at http://www.globalwitness.org/media_library_detail.php/576/en/the_congolese_mining_sector_in_the_balance
For further information, please contact Carina Tertsakian on +44 207 561 6372.
Note to editors:
Global Witness is an independent British-based non-governmental organisation which researches and campaigns on the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict and corruption.
All Global Witness publications can be found at www.globalwitness.org
 See Global Witness press release "Congolese government should ensure transparency and independent oversight in mining contract review", 17 May 2007.