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Will bandages mend broken ties in the DRC?

July 8, 2010

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/EXPLOSIONThe relations between First Quantum and the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone from bad to worse in recent months, after the country expropriated the miner’s $765 million Kolwezi copper tailings project in September.  

A recent court ruling in the DRC has also cast a cloud over the future of the company’s Frontier and Lonshi mines, located in the south of the country. The widely covered dispute has led the DRC to accuse First Quantum of running a smear campaign against the country, the feud nearly foiled the DRC’s efforts to secure a $8 billion debt relief deal from the World Bank.   

But in a rare conciliatory gesture First Quantum said it is responding to an aid request from the DRC, after a fuel tanker explosion killed at least 230 people and left nearly 200 injured in the Central African country. The company said it has obtained two tonnes of bandages, creams, painkillers and antibiotics from South Africa and is in the process of transporting the medical supplies to the DRC. 

First Quantum, which expects the shipment to reach the DRC on July 8, said it plans to coordinate its efforts with the United Nations mission in the region.  Can an airplane full of bandages help fix a multi-million dollar international dispute? Only time will tell.


I am surprised that the European and US Governments are not showing solidarity with the Canadians. The DRC action is blatant theft. When the late President Mobutu nationalized the Belgian copper mines in 1967, he refused to pay compensation. As a result, the DRC was totally cut off from international aid, including World Bank. The situation was reversed when Mobutu agreed to pay compensation.

Posted by Herky99 | Report as abusive

Indeed blatant theft. One wonders..theft to order maybe?

In 12 months who will be running the Copper and Cobalt project?

Posted by Alisdair | Report as abusive

There is the other side – that mining destroys environment, that workers are not adequately compensated, that profits are not re-invested in the country from which they are taken. Nationalization allows governments especially poorer countries, to protect the land base and ensure adequate compensation for any damage done.

Posted by halcyonmeadows | Report as abusive

The fact that the DRC allowed them to build the mine shifts the responsibility for the environment (through environment regulations) to the government. Profit’s aren’t “re-invested” because they were never “invested”. There’s a substance that the DRC lacked the ability to mine and refine, so they traded the mineral rights to a company in exchange for taxation revenues, possible royalties, etc. Also, mining tradionally pays far better than other job in an area.

Long story short: Why would FQ build a mine if they knew it would be nationalized? They were lured there under false pretences and DRC is trying to steal their property, infrastructure and investments.

This is 2011, you can’t conduct your country like that.

I hope that they do get cut off.


Posted by Envestor88 | Report as abusive

I am just interested to find that people make analysis looking at one side of the story. Why should the US and European Union interfere on the matter between FQ and DRC? Why did they not interfere when FQ and DRC signed they contracts? Did they ever check to see if the contract could benefit he poor population? THE WORLD IS NOT FAIR

Posted by Stevekabamba | Report as abusive

So, just to be clear, Envestor88 feels there is no responsibility on the part of FQ to behave in a responsible way towards the environment or the human beings who live near the mine and work in it? No need to invest in that country in any way, just reap all the rewards for themselves and their investors?

I find it interesting that the world bank, indeed the world, is being encouraged by anyone to yet again cut off aid to the DRC because a corporation is not being allowed to do as they please with the humanity and the resources of yet another country.

How very laughable to say that it’s the countries responsibility to set human rights and environmental laws in place when the cases of corporations doing exactly the opposite if it furthers their bottom line.

Posted by Pax369 | Report as abusive

Before everyone is sure how to condemn the Congolese government perhaps they need to see what is happening. They are not fools and if this organization is doing so much for the country, building infrastructure and such they would not be having trouble. Congolese are hospitable and do not throw monkey wrenches at development so I would logically say that those who are so quick to condemn the DRC government probably do not have the whole story. Indeed if this company was so good then they might have had the health services in place. I have no idea what a container of band aids cost but I do know that mineral companies are making big money in the DRC. Logic my friends means keep an open mind, there is probably a lot more to the story than is printed here.

Posted by chriskazadi | Report as abusive

The ‘bleeding heart’ point of view may indeed be true that FQ had not paid an equitable price but then the DRC government would renegotiate before cutting of the project.

It seems pretty clear that this is theft. The DRC government sold it once and steady state production offers them smaller opportunities for graft. Better to make money by finding another investor for another round of bribes.

Posted by Alisdair | Report as abusive

FQ has spat in the face of the DRC and is now attempting to wipe if off as if nothing ever happened. The people of the DRC that are in the mines everyday working their butts off to be able to feed their families should be taken care of better than they are now.

The money being made from the mine should be invested in the country ass a whole to make lives their better.

Posted by FierceInk | Report as abusive

corporations,world bank included,have in one way or another ,brought resource-rich(or is it wealthy) Africa to it’s knees,with their take-no give back,profit driven policy, and austere measures..anyone in a corporation knows what i’m talking about ,so please no biz-ethic pretence here…So good on you and thank you DRC government, for taking a stance on a to start somewhere..Africa

Posted by arsewipenomore | Report as abusive

Blatant and heartless exploitation of the Congo by the west has been going on since the late 1800′s. Read up a bit; King Leopold’s Ghost, and Heart of Darkness are two great books to start with.

Nothing will change until people are put before $$, and history continually shows that has not been a strong point of the wealthy power elite.

That said, I do believe corporations should be allowed to make money, but I also believe they should have to be humane about it. Slash and burn, and take all you can, and give nothing back is not humane.

Posted by RobbC | Report as abusive

Interesting how much interference goes on in the supposedly “free market”. Governments protect banks when they bring themselves to the edge of collapse. Banks and monetary funds protect corporations against sovereign states.

Why not just let the markets decide who is right?

If DRC has truly mistreated FQ, then other companies will be reluctant to risk investing into mining operations in the DRC, and eventually they will have to learn the hard way.

Free market my foot, constant intervention is how the world economy is run.

Posted by donovanski | Report as abusive

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