From cyberspace, one of CMJ’s faithful readers dropped us a line after reading about the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) program to renegotiate mining rights in that country.
“Will the Congo ever learn from the past? I was indirectly involved in the Tenke Fungarume project from the late ’60’s when I was the chemist in charge of the laboratory that analyzed the drill samples coming out of Tenke. I remember having to produce new standards for the sample at plus 30% cobalt and similar for copper!
“Then I worked for Charter Consolidated Services that managed the Tenke project at Ashford Laboratories in the UK. Charter, Anglo and its then partners canned the project in 1976 when its cost soared to over $1,000 million – an astronomical sum in those days. In retrospect it was probably the best decision ever made by the consortium. The railway line from the Congo to the west coast port in Angola was blockaded in the mid ’70s and has never re-opened more than 30 years on, and the project needed this link to export its copper and cobalt and to import its sulphur for the vast sulphuric acid requirement for the leaching of the surface oxide ores.
“The Congo is too large a country to govern. The answer might be taken from the old Yugoslavia [which is] now several smaller governable ethnic countries. As long as [the DRC is] so large it will never be stable. It is also extremely unsafe for people – corruption and violence run rife! Tenke Fungarume will still be there in 2020 or after – un-mined!”