M&B has chosen to deliver the most crunchy moments without comment. Verbatim.
“I just want to speak a little about history. STL was created 17 years ago in partnership with the Forrest group. Gécamines was a 30% shareholder and the Forrest Group 70% (...) After 16 years, following the process we had launched to review all our partnerships, we came across a serious problem: the agreements had been constantly breached (...) We therefore asked our partners to sit around the table and compensate Gécamines for the losses it had suffered for 15 years. They refused. And so we had to go the hard way and block the factory and prevent them from accessing the facilities. They took us to trial. And imagine, in Europe! In Europe because at the “beautiful” time of “no-look signatures”, if there was a dispute, a Congolese court had to go to the Belgian courts. That way, they were sureto win. Well, no, no! Gécamines was the small minority shareholder, the small thumb, but we fought back.
We went to the first trial, and we won. They appealed, we won. So they had the choice: either to leave and continue appealing. They would leave with zero francs zero cents, or they would agree to give us back the factory 100% ownership. We finally reached an amicable settlement. They left us the factory because they knew what they had already earned for 15 years. Today, I would like to be clear here, this plant belongs 100% to Gécamines! 100 %! The agreement was to take over the operation of the plant and support us for one year to transfer technology.
A week before the factory was taken over, whether by accident or sabotage, the furnace burst! A week, do you realize that? (small voice) Ah? Oh, yeah? But it wasn’t our fault... during the trial. They were going to leave us with a broken oven. We said no, we’re going back to court. They finally pulled out the $15 million. Today, we have the second largest cobalt furnace in the world.
Since we had seen that they were “good friends (!)”, we told them: “You no longer even have the technology transfer contract “. We knew we had the engineers. (...) We said, we’ll take up the challenge. But to avoid taking any risks with such a technology, we went looking for another technical support. People who have managed the same ovens. This is why our Chinese friends are there for a fixed period of time to complete the technology transfer from our former partner. They are paid for this expertise. Behind each external expert is a Congolese. (...)
We will be able to produce at least 5000 tonnes of cobalt. We will be among the 5 largest cobalt producers in the world and it is not over. Inside the ore, there are many precious things. They include germanium and gallium. For all these years, germanium and gallium were extracted outside (from Congo, editor’s note). We never had a franc in return. We didn’t even know it existed. Know that germanium is two to three times more valuable than cobalt! Let’s not even begin with Gallium, which is the only metal used in the manufacture of rockets. In 3 years, when we have invested enough to process germanium on site, we will be the world’s leading producer of germanium!
That is our mission in this council; to rethink all our partnerships. Where we’re not happy, we’re going to go to war. More battles with other partners are in sight. We will need political support. We have the managers, the employees, the work will eventually pay off. (...) Let’s get our rights back first. I keep saying it: for 15 years, Gécamines had more than 10 partnerships. None until last year had paid a dollar dividend! Every year, they report losses. Are you reporting losses? What are you still doing in Congo? You know where you get the money... Like the old partners here. (...) I am proud of the Congolese workers!
Thank you very much.