Mining&Business. Can you tell us about your two companies?
John Kanyoni. Through Metachem, we operate in North Kivu, where our headquarters are located. We also operate in Maniema province where Metachem works with Sakima. We have assets that we are developing in South Kivu in the tin, tungsten and colombo-tantalite sectors. Through our company Tembo Power, we are also present in the province of Lualaba where we are developing a hydroelectric dam project with a capacity of 66 MW coupled with 33 MW of solar energy. Our studies have been approved by the government and we are already well advanced in negotiations with international groups such as Eiffage and EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction)
M&B. Where exactly will this dam be built?
JK. In Lubudi, in the province of Lualaba, to serve the mines. The companies Tembo Power is discussing with are among the major players in the DRC, but we will also supply the riverside communities.
M&B. For the past ten years, you have been Vice-President of the Chamber of Mines of the Fédération des Entreprises du Congo, the FEC. What message for INDABA 2020?
JK. The message is very simple: the DRC remains the country of choice in terms of potential and investment. We are now Africa’s leading copper producer, with one million copper cathodes, we have the largest reserves of cobalt in the world, but also lithium, germanium and coltan. In another example, Ivanhoé has discovered deposits that will last a century, which is exceptional. However, we have a major challenge: Congo is unable to operate at full capacity due to the energy deficit. To overcome this, three private projects are underway; our Tembo Power project, Kipay Energy and Great Lakes.
M&B. What about the mining code?
JK. As far as the mining code is concerned, everything is certainly not perfect, especially incidental taxation. The issue of the stability clause was also at the heart of the debate throughout parliamentary scrutiny. If incidental taxation did not cause our mining royalty rate to explode, I would firmly say that we are not as poorly equipped as other African countries. I hope that with the new leadership, these issues can be resolved; it would be wise to evaluate the mining law and address the challenges that affect the mining industry’s taxation and incidental taxation before considering an amendment.
M&B. When the new code was adopted, there was a crisis between the mining giants based in the DRC and the Chamber of Mines. Where do we stand today?
JK. I can reassure you: We already have two among the seven who have returned; Ivanhoe and MMG. We are in discussions with the others, I have no doubt that next year the great mining family will be reunited. The Chamber remains the ideal forum for advocacy and for being the union of mining companies.
M&B. Banro has ceased its activities in the DRC. Can you comment on that?
JK. Banro is established in the two provinces in eastern DRC, through its Twangiza mine in South Kivu. But Banro was mainly hit by real problems in Namoya in Maniema. I must admit that the new management has inherited a mine with heavy financial liabilities, but also with major security challenges. We hope that by working closely with the government, the case of force majeure mentioned by Banro can be lifted and allow a resumption of work. The mine has tremendous potential and it would be a shame if that mine did not continue to operate.
M&B. The DRC is struggling to diversify its economy. Has the DRC really become aware of the exhaustibility of its mineral resources?
JK. Originally from the East, I have always believed that the mining sector can only serve as a locomotive to boost other sectors. And we must be able to diversify our economy into agriculture, services, tourism and new technologies. I am also thinking of the agro-industry with our 80 million hectares of arable land. We also need to invest in education to meet the challenges of a subcontinental country that must train its executives, its workforce, rehabilitate and build new communication infrastructures. If these elements are not integrated, we will face major challenges that will challenge the development of the DRC.
M&B. On the subject of education, the new code provides for the creation of a fund for future generations. What do you think?
JK. The DRC should follow the example of the Norwegian fund. This fund should enable future generations to benefit from the mining boom. We must also remember that the mining code was innovative and allowed the province, territory and even the chiefdom to receive funds.
M&B. This code was voted on when there were impressive course levels. Which is no longer the case. Are you one of the few optimists for 2020?
JK. Cobalt fell. This shows that cobalt can no longer be considered a strategic substance. This is also the case for coltan. For gold, prices have risen sharply, so the companies that have invested in the sector will find themselves in good shape despite incidental taxation that generally puts on a burden on companies. For tin, it was also a very difficult year. There are many things that unfortunately have nothing to do with us, but with a trade war between China and the United States.
M&B. According to World Bank figures, the mere shutdown of Glencore’s activities will cause the DRC to lose two GDP points in 2020. Any comments?
JK. As you know, Glencore today, for cobalt alone, holds one third of the world’s production through Mutanda Mining and produced 20% of the world’s production in 2018. I hope that next year the situation will be less difficult.
M&B. You stated on RFI that the Congolese should self-reflect before declaring themselves victims of international issues. Can you explain that to us?
JK. The real issues are good governance, improving the business climate, security, corruption. These are real issues that have to be debated to attract investment. These issues must be resolved by us Congolese so that we do not always say that others are at the root of our problems and to drop this scapegoat culture.
M&B. Some people have attacked your Rwandan origins, while you hold an eminently strategic position for the DRC. How do you react to these attacks?
JK. I tell myself that unfortunately, these people are ignorant. I am Congolese, and I am very proud of my origins in the East. These people are not familiar with our history and its diversity. My Congolese nationality is also the richness of our country, because it is a very different country from North to South, from East to West. Those who know me know that I am a Rwandophone Congolese. I am proud to belong to our common heritage: the DRC.
M&B. Finally, what are the reasons for hope despite this somewhat gloomy global context?
JK. We are now at a crossroads towards a global energy transition. We remain a country with exceptional hydrological potential. We are a country with deposits that have not yet been exploited in the true sense of the word. I therefore remain convinced that we remain the country of choice in the mining sector. We still have work to do by improving our business climate to attract investors. This really is a blessed country, but you have to work hard to get there and we have the human and natural resources to do so.