Houses bulldozed to make way for gold mining in DR Congo

0

In mid-October, local authorities ordered the destruction of several houses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on land exploited by the mining company Kibali Gold Mining since 2009. Residents protested against the operation during demonstrations brutally repressed by the forces of security, killing several people.

The multi-day protest peaked on October 22 in Haut-Uele province, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Up to seven people, including a policeman, have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in the mining community of Durba, according to local media.

Residents had gathered to protest against the demolition by the local government of a number of houses in the villages of Bandayi and Mégé on October 19. These houses were built in “Exclusion Zone B”, which is part of a mining concession owned by Kibali Gold Mining. While the area was established as an exclusively mining area, the company has not yet started mining there.

Videos, shared on WhatsApp by activists and then transferred to the AXADLETM Observers team, show a bulldozer destroying a house. Other footage shows residents leaving, some carrying sheets of corrugated iron, others swinging chairs over their heads – all they could save before the bulldozer arrived.

“People did not even have time to gather their things” The AXADLETM Observers team spoke with Bissia Tchang, spokesperson for a local organization called the League of Youth United for the Development of the Territory by Watsa. He says residents have not received any warning.

Kibali Gold Mining has for some time wanted to start operations in Exclusion Zone B. On several occasions, authorities have said that people living in Mege will not be relocated, but only those living in the Bandayi community. The people of Bandayi received a two-month warning and were even given new land as part of the resettlement process.

But to our surprise, the bulldozers arrived in Mege early Tuesday morning. [October 19]. They started to destroy houses belonging to people without giving them any warning or information.

People didn’t even have time to collect their things. A child was killed because he was sleeping in one of the bulldozed houses. We cannot stand it. That’s why we protested. How could the authorities do that to a population they are supposed to protect?

Kibali Gold Mining, of which the Canadian company Barrick is a 45% shareholder, has been active in the region since 2009. It owns and operates a gold deposit with an area of ​​over 1,800 km2, one of the largest gold deposits. of the world according to Mining-Technology, a British publication specializing in the industry.

Over 1,500 households affected

In the first quarter of 2021, Kibali Gold Mining produced nearly 192,000 ounces of gold, according to Financial Afrik. But the company, which currently operates only part of its deposit, wants to expand its activities and increase its production.

{{scope.counterText}}

{{scope.legend}} © {{scope.credits}} {{scope.counterText}}

I {{scope.legend}}

© {{scope.credits}} More than 1,500 households have been affected by the demolitions in the town of Bandayi and 860 houses have been destroyed in Mège, according to Heritier Mungumiyo, who runs the local media outlet Oriental Info.

Bissia Tchang continues:

Thousands of people are now exposed to the elements. They don’t know where to go. The situation is miserable. Some victims are accommodated in churches, others in schools. Some people have found refuge with friends or family. But others remain near their destroyed homes and live under tarpaulins. The provincial authorities refuse to say anything. They treat people here in an inhumane way.

“Businesses don’t follow the law because they don’t want to spend a lot of money”

Richard Ilunga, director of human rights at the NGO African Resources Watch (Afrewatch) says he is not surprised by the brutality used to relocate residents. Ilunga says that this kind of operation “always goes very badly”.

The mining code stipulates that people must be consulted beforehand and that they must agree to be relocated or compensated if the company considers that its activities could have a detrimental effect on the lives of the local population.

These consultations should take place during environmental impact studies, well before the company starts operations. Communities must understand why they are displaced and accept it. The company that wants to exploit these resources must finance everything.

But in reality, companies do not follow these procedures because they do not want to spend money. There is still a problem – either the new land allocated to the people is not as good as it used to be, or the government has not provided enough space for the fields or there is no good source. water in the new village. In most of these cases, the government undervalued community properties.

So, sometimes, the inhabitants refuse the compensation and the companies come to try to evict them by force. Not wanting to sleep outside, they accept the small compensation offered to them.

Barrick Gold says people claiming compensation are “illegal occupants”

Cyrille Mutombo, the national director of Barrick Gold, told the AXADLETM Observers team that people living in this area were compensated and relocated in 2013. The houses that are currently razed belong to people who have moved into the areas. land owned by the mining company and built houses there illegally from 2015.

Kibali Zone B was designated as an exclusive zone in May 2010 and the Kibali Gold Mining company paid damages to the people who lived there. The amount each person received was determined on a sliding scale. They got 50% more than the value of their goods.

Then, under the supervision of government officials, we used poles to demarcate the area that would be used exclusively for mining. Unfortunately, from 2015 new people moved in, destroying some of these posts and building houses there. These are the people who are asking for compensation. But they are illegal occupants.

According to our schedule, we should start operating this site in 2022. The exit deadline for local people has now expired – we have even extended it several times. Now the provincial government has no choice. They have to start demolishing the houses.

Our team contacted Ismaël Ebunzé, the Minister of Mines of Haut-Uélé Province, but he did not respond to our request for an interview.

In a press conference on October 22, Christophe Baseane Nangaa, the governor of the province, ordered the demolitions to be stopped, pending determination “whether those who carried out this operation have exceeded their mandate”.

.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More