IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), TUMEC, CSC, UNTC and OTUC, support a new mining code that will ensure that the country receives a greater share of the revenue earned from its mines.
The DRC will tomorrow sign into law a new mining code, passed by parliament in January 2018, and announced at the African Mining Indaba in Cape Town earlier in February, where IndustriALL participated as a labour representative.
Unions in the DRC believe that the code is progressive, as it seeks to address loopholes that have led to mining companies accumulating profits at the expense of workers and communities. Although the DRC is rich in natural resources, its 80 million people are among the poorest in the world. Despite billions of dollars in private investment in mining, there has been very limited benefit to the people of the country.
It is appropriate that the people of the DRC benefit from the current cobalt-lead commodities boom. Demand for cobalt, pushed by smartphones and electric car batteries, has seen prices skyrocketing by 127 per cent in a year to $75,000 per tonne, and copper prices increasing above $7,000.
The code increases taxes and royalties on mining companies, as well as addressing environmental concerns and the rights of communities, especially those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture, that are affected by mining.
The code increases royalties from 2 to 3.5 per cent for copper and cobalt. Royalties in neighbouring countries are higher: Zambia (6 per cent), Ghana (5) and Tanzania (4). The state’s stake is also increased from 5 to 10 per cent, to be held by the state-owned mining company, Gécamines. The code also seeks to increase corporation tax from 30 to 35 per cent.
The introduction of the new code is opposed by mining companies Randgold, Glencore, China Molybdenam and Ivanhoe. Mining CEOs travelled to DRC to lobby President Joseph Kabila against the code.
On a recent visit to DRC, IndustriALL witnessed a stark difference between the appalling conditions reported by workers at Glencore operations and Chinese-owned artisanal mines, and the facilities available at Gécamines operations. However, Gécamines lacks the capital to develop DRC’s mining potential. The small increase in royalties will give the DRC the capital to develop mining, create jobs and improve infrastructure, including roads, schools and hospitals.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to President Kabila to raise the unions’ issues, saying:
“We were saddened and outraged at what we discovered: the daily experience of abuse and violation of fundamental labour rights of Congolese mine workers at these operations are in total disregard of the laws of the country and collective bargaining arrangements.
"Taking into account the appalling working conditions at some multinational mining companies’ operations in the country, we attach extreme importance to the actual implementation of this new mining code.”