Natural resources and energy
Mining has been the cornerstone of Congo-Kinshasa’s formal economy since colonial times, although its contribution to GDP has declined since the 1980s. However, some recovery has taken place. Copper, cobalt and diamonds are the most important minerals. Large quantities are also extracted from zinc, gold, cassiterite, manganese, cadmium, germanium, silver, tungsten and coltan.
The rise in recent years is due to the fact that foreign mining companies have been able to return after being excluded for decades after the previous statehood. A law that regulates the mining industry was adopted in 2002 and guarantees investors’ ownership of their facilities and reduces the influence of the state. The law was criticized for being too generous towards the companies. The state was accused of selling its assets far too cheaply.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Democratic Republic of the Congo with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
At the same time, in almost every mining industry, since the late 1990s, there has been a development from organized, industrial production to artisanal, more or less illegal mining. Often, young men have been flocking to mines that have been abandoned since state-controlled production collapsed. The working conditions are fatal and the workers are forced to pay a large number of bribes to the police and military to enter the mining areas.
Armed groups have enriched themselves in the mining industry. This is particularly the case in the Kivu provinces, where gold, tungsten, coltan and casserite are mainly mined. The recovery began on a larger scale in 1996, when war broke out and first Rwanda and then Uganda invaded the area (see Modern History). Although the war formally ended in 2002–2003, illegal activity continued in the power vacuum that ensued. Both foreign and domestic rebel groups benefit from the mineral trade. This means that the central government continues to lose revenue, and in addition, the profits go largely to continued fighting.
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Congo-Kinshasa is believed to have among the largest unexploded gold deposits in Africa, primarily in the Kivu provinces and Ituri. The mining takes place mainly on a small scale and under almost completely unregulated forms. Congolese authorities have estimated that about 40 tonnes of gold are smuggled out of the country each year. In 2011, however, a Canadian company began mining gold in the Twangiza mine in South Kivu, the first major commercial gold mining since independence.
The deposits of cassiterite, also called tartar, and coltan (columbit-tantalite) are often mentioned as particularly driving forces in the conflicts in Congo. Congo has the largest cash resources in Africa and a large proportion of the world’s coltan. Coltan is used in mobile phones and other electronic equipment.
During the half-year 2010–2011, all mining was officially banned in both Kiwi provinces and in neighboring Maniema to try to prevent the rebels from making money. The quarry, however, mainly led to 2 million families being deprived of their livelihoods and the government army taking over the illegal activities. Soldiers, prisoners and forced laborers were ordered to the mines.
Copper is found mainly in the southeastern province of Katanga, which borders Zambia and the copper belt there. Congo is estimated to have around a tenth of the world’s copper assets – accounting for 3.4 percent of extraction in 2012. Copper production fell dramatically in connection with the international financial crisis in 2008, but has since recovered.
Cobalt is a by-product of copper mining. Congo-Kinshasa is the world’s third largest producer of cobalt and is estimated to have more than half of the world’s reserves. The government has made several attempts to introduce an export ban on unprocessed copper and cobalt in order to encourage processing in the country. But the prohibitions are difficult to enforce because of the large electricity shortage that makes it difficult to operate refineries.
Katanga also contains most of the country’s zinc and germanium.
Diamonds are found mainly in the Kasai provinces in the south, and partly in Orientale in the northeast. Recovery has declined steadily in recent years, but Congo still accounted for just over 5 percent of world production in 2012. The country has joined the so-called Kimberley Process, which is to ensure that illegally mined diamonds do not come on the market.
Electricity is produced almost exclusively by hydropower. If the capacity of the Congo River was fully developed, it would be able to supply electricity throughout Africa. But only about three percent of this power reserve has been used so far. An expansion of the hydroelectric plant None near the outlet of the Congo River has long been planned, but is constantly delayed. However, a new agreement on the expansion was signed with a Chinese and a Spanish company in the fall of 2018.
Most electricity is used in the mining industry. Households are generally referred to using wood or charcoal.
There is oil off the narrow coastal strip on the Atlantic. Crude oil is exported, as the country’s only refinery has no capacity to process it. Significant oil deposits are also found on the large lakes in the east and extensive exploration is ongoing. Coal is broken but to a lesser extent.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
384 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)
Electricity consumption per person
107 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
4,672,000 tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
0.1 ton (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
95.8 percent (2015)
The UN force is changing its name
The UN force Monuc is being reformed and renamed Monusco.
Human rights activist is murdered
Human rights activist Floribert Chebeya is murdered in Kinshasa. He is found dead in his car after being called to a meeting with police.