Mining and Business: Excellency, thank you for accepting to meet us. We hear that Kolwezi has become the current centre of the world because of the cobalt surge. What is your strategy regarding spinoffs and local development?
His Excellency Richard Muyej : Yes, but in my opinion, it is cyclical. We should be able to take advantage of this situation to develop sectors that will make us, on a permanent basis, the centre of the world. I invited several experts from the tourism sector, we visited one of our territories, Lubudi, and the opinions are unanimous; we have beautiful sites. If we succeed in creating access roads, in building reception structures, we will be, and for a long time, the centre of the world. I firmly believe in it! I'm negotiating with the mining companies in the province to get them on board.
M&B : Are there no other development pillars?
H.E RM: To ensure the development of communities, it is time to have an agricultural development plan. With mining companies, we are thinking of farming parks in each of the five territories. We are in the process of evaluating what the project will cost, and I think we will be going about it gradually. If we succeed in both sectors, we will finally have moved away from dependence on mines.
M&B : What is there regarding local industrial development, other than the projects that we already know about, all mining?
H.E RM: So far, there is the exploitation and sale of cathodes, but there is still too much ore like cobalt exported in concentrate. We receive more and more groups who want to go all the way in the transformation process. We are delighted that this idea comes from the big investors, and we support all those who come up with such ideas. This will enable us to resolve many things, to master traceability because we are the target of criticism. I think there has been a lot of bad things said about the Congo. Every time there is progress, I do not feel any effort to do us justice. It is true, there are still massive deficits at home, despite the actions of the Head of State. For those who believe in Congolese minerals, it is important that we work together to accelerate the clean-up process. At that point, we will avoid criticism, and everyone will be comfortable in their role.
M&B : Without transition, a more personal question: How does a former interior minister decide to return home to his province? How did it go?
H.E RM: Yes, I was Interior Minister for a long time, during a particular period on the security point of view because I had to accompany the Head of State to put an end to the M23 war. As soon as I was appointed, I left ???. And when, at the end of my mandate, I summed up the days of the mission, I realised that I stayed outside the capital for three-quarters of the time. It was an exciting experience, and I felt adopted in different provinces. It was also the period when I had to popularise decentralisation, especially in its delicate context of dismemberment. I remember that in Katanga, the debate was very hot. The leaders at the time did not want to hear about it. Today, I realise that they had other ideas, they wanted to have strong support for the presidential campaign. But in the end, the communities said it: it was necessary to cut to accelerate the development process. Many people say that my experience as a facilitator has enabled me to gain experience and to meet the expectations of the people. I do not want to establish a review of my performance, but I have the impression that in Lualaba or with the advent of other new provinces, there have been many debates that have turned into inter-community clashes. Today adhesion is stronger, and when you start the discussion of returning to the old formula of one unified Katanga, there is no one following you.
M&B : There are rumours in Kolwezi that the old town has moved to dig and find cobalt. What exactly is the situation?
H.E RM: Should we talk about rumours? I believe that this is a reality that we must seriously consider. When in certain districts people dig, find cobalt or copper, sometimes with very high content. The contagion already occurred in two districts, the "Kasulu" and "Tshipuki" districts and also towards Musonoï which is the most significant Gécamines city. The extent of the phenomenon is so great that a plan is needed to avoid hasty movements that could turn into a humanitarian tragedy. We have made a project proposal that we will submit to the authorities. As soon as we get the authorisations, we'll go ahead with it. Can you imagine that they even found minerals in four plots within the executive district! We need a compensation program, and more importantly, an offshoring program, as we are looking for sites. We must first build new cities with an urbanisation program, before thinking about relocating. But we think about it seriously; this is not a rumour, it is a reality we are currently facing.
M&B : We were talking earlier about "local content". What could you do to attract the Congolese executives you will need for the future?
H.E RM: It is necessary... (Sighs). We are facing challenges; we must reduce the paradox between on the one hand the immense wealth, and on the other hand the enormous precariousness in the city. We are pleased that the new subcontracting legislation is finally coming into effect, even though we feel some resistance from mining operators. But they are making a mistake because to protect their investments; they have every interest in getting communities on board. Prosperity must be shared. When it is frozen in a camp, it becomes a source of agitation, because it is at the root of frustration. And at that point, the disruption becomes a danger to investments. It is very embarrassing that even for simple work, expatriate workers are flown in. While we have professional schools, whose educational level are improving. We want to focus on Congolese skills. We need the involvement of Congolese expertise, and we are in talks with large companies that can help us finance major professionalisation institutes. About the active participation of Congolese companies, we encouraged the FEC to use experienced structures for the training of managers.
M&B : I heard that after crossing the bridge to go to Kolwezi, one arrives in Chinatown! Many Congolese say "there are too many Chinese workers". Have we reached some kind of saturation?
H.E RM: We notice that there are many foreigners coming to the DRC, and the Chinese are the most numerous. We are open to all communities, and we will be very embarrassed to talk about quota. But we've just found that apparently, that's where you look for the finances. Even in societies where Western capital was strong, there is a tendency to be seduced by the Chinese offers. I am thinking of TFM, of KAMOA, which is the most significant project in the next three or four years. The Chinese are not limited to mines, they are starting to take an interest in energy, and we will soon realise that they have taken everything. We must ensure that certain balances are maintained. While we are not against the arrival of investors, we must do everything to protect the emancipation of our communities and the emergence of the Congolese middle class.
M&B : We were in Cape Town, for the Mining Indaba, and we noticed the way you were promoting your province. You are even planning an event in September. Could you tell us more about it?
H.E RM: We are working actively to promote our city and not only because of its mines. We will be wherever there are big « rendez-vous » because we believe that Lualaba has enough assets, to make more prominent leaps than other provinces, while still taking the other regions into account. For example, we have a project for building a road linking Upper Lomami to Lualaba, because we are interested in Luena's coal reserves, 225 km from Kolwezi. We are also interested in agricultural production in Upper Lomami. I would make more sense bringing maize from Upper Lomami, rather than continuing to import from Zambia or South Africa. We are replacing a ferry with a bridge over the Lualaba to make contact between the two provinces easier. We will fund this project, but we are working in symbiosis with the other province. Lualaba's assets must be able to benefit other regions. So, yes, we have a big meeting in September. This will be an opportunity to demonstrate that the mining industry is thriving here, but also that local people with artisanal mining can achieve great things. I am also organising a large exhibition of works of malachite art from our local artisans. We will also move the villagers from Walemba, 35 km from Kolwesi, so that our visitors experience the factory of the crusts cast with traditional metals. We will also bring a Tesla stand to the event in Kolwezi so that the Cobalt generation can see understand that the products from their basements can contribute to high technology.
M&B : When will the event take place?
H.E RM : From the 5th to 8th September 2018, under the presidency of the Head of State himself.
M&B : Will all the mining companies established in Kolwezi be there?
H.E RM : All mining companies will exhibit. We also expect significant investors and those who are planning to invest with us. But unlike most mining events elsewhere, we will have a stand, where we will share our projections on tourism and agriculture. And in our presentation, we will demonstrate how from the mines, other sectors can be developed, to untie communities from the dependence on the mineral trade.
M&B : Will the event be directly organised by the province?
H.E RM : No, it will be organised by the National Ministry of Mines, but it is the province that will take care of most aspects of the organisation.
M&B : Thank you.