Sometimes the promise of potential riches lures explorationists into countries that may or may not have political stability and clear development regulations. Add to that the confusion of similar names, and misunderstanding ensues. The two Congos certainly have me confused.
The larger country is the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, commonly abbreviated as DRC. It lies in central Africa and would be land-locked except for a sliver of land extending to the seacoast. The DRC (formerly known as the ‘Belgian Congo’) gained independence from Belgium in 1960, and fell into a period of political and social instability. It suffered civil war and insurrection until Joseph Kabila set up a transitional government in July 2003, naming himself president and governing with four vice-presidents from former rebel groups and political opposition. A constitutional referendum was held in 2005, and elections held in 2006. Kabila won the presidency and was inaugurated in December 2006.
The DRC boasts base and precious metal resources as well as gems (including diamonds), coal, uranium, hydropower and timber. Current mining activity has caused environmental damage.
The smaller REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO lies along the northwest boundary of the DRC. It, too, has access to the Atlantic Ocean along a 170-km strip of coastline. The Congo gained its independence from France in 1960 and embarked on a quarter-century of Marxism. A democratic government was elected in 1992, but a brief civil war restored the former Marxist president to power in 1997. Civil war and political unrest ensued until peace was restored in 2003, but it the calm is tenuous.
The Congo was once one of Africa’s largest oil and gas producers, but output is declining. The country’s resources also include base and precious metals, potash, phosphates, hydropower and timber.
The foregoing information comes from the CIA, yes the American CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Its website at www.CIA.gov is available to all, and the “World Factbook” section is constantly updated. Details are available on the geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation and the military of each country and principality. Of particular interest might be the final entry for each country, a note of their trans-national issues including boundary disputes, refugees and drug use. The Factbook might be the best starting point for any company considering work in a foreign land.
North American mining companies are initiating projects in the DRC in growing numbers. A quick search of THE NORTHERN MINER website reveals a couple dozen exploration projects and two producing mines owned by Canadian or U.S. companies. There is also a single project in the Congo. I hope these miners keep themselves well-informed of the political risks in those countries.