Mining and Business: Excellency, thank you for seeing us. We hear that Kolwezi has become the centre of the world because of cobalt. What is your strategy in terms of spinoffs and local development?
His Excellency Richard Muyej: Yes, but in my opinion, it’s cyclical. We should be able to take advantage of this situation to develop sectors that will really 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 wonderful sites. If we succeed in creating access roads, in creating 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 community development, it is time to have an agricultural development plan. With mining companies, we are thinking of agricultural 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 that is 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 talk about the Congo. Every time there is progress, I do not feel any effort to do us justice. It is true, there are still huge deficits at home, despite the actions of the Head of State. With those who believe in Congolese minerals, it is important that we work together to accelerate the sanitation process. At that point, we will avoid criticism and everyone will be comfortable in their role.
M&B : Without transition, 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 plan 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 realized 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 popularize decentralization, 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 realize that they had other ideas, they wanted to have a staff for the presidential campaign. But in the end, the communities said it: it was absolutely necessary to cut to accelerate the development process. Many people say that my experience as a facilitator has enabled me to be experienced and to meet the expectations of the people. I do not want to take stock, 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 membership is stronger and when you start the debate to return to the old formula of one 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 noise? 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 effect of contagion occurred in two districts, “Kasulu” and “Tshipuki” district and also towards Musonoï which is the largest city Gécamines. 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 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 they found minerals in three or four plots within the executive district. We need a compensation program, and more importantly, an offshoring program, we are looking for sites. We must first build new cities with an urbanization program, before thinking about relocating. But we think about it seriously, it’s not a rumour, it’s a reality we’re 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 absolutely necessary… (Sighs). We have 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 to have been served by the new contracting-out legislation, even though we feel some resistance from mining operators. But this is a mistake, because in order to better 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 brought in. While we have professional schools, whose quality is improving. We want to focus on Congolese skills. We absolutely need the involvement of Congolese expertise, and we are in talks with large companies that can help us in financing the major professionalization institutes. With regard to the active participation of Congolese companies, we encouraged the FEC to use experienced structures for the training of managers.
M&B: I heard that when we crossed the bridge to go on Kolwezi, we arrived in Chinatown! Many Congolese say “there are too many Chinese”. Have we reached some kind of saturation?
H.E RM: We notice that there are many foreigners coming, 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 yield to the Chinese. I am thinking of TFM, of KAMOA, which is the biggest 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 realize that they have taken everything. We must ensure that certain balances are maintained. While we do not oppose the arrival of investors, but 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 Mining Indaba, and we noticed the way you were promoting your province. You don’t stop there, and you continue with an event in September. Could you tell us about it?
H.E RM: We are working actively to promote our city and not only because of the mines. We will be wherever there are big “Rendez-vous” because we believe that Lualaba has enough assets, to make bigger leaps than other provinces, but while taking into account the others. For example, we have a project for 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 be very comfortable 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, but we are working in symbiosis with the other province. Lualaba’s assets must be able to benefit other provinces. 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 Aboriginal people with artisanal mining can achieve great things. I am organizing all those who are in art, so that there will be a large exhibition stand of works of malachite art. We will also move the villagers from Walemba, 35 km from Kolwezi, so that our visitors live the factory of the crusts cast with traditional metals. We will also bring a Tesla to a stand in Kolwezi, so that the children of the Cobalt can see what products from their basements can bring to high technology.
M&B: When will it be?
H.E RM: From 5th to 8th September 2018, under the presidency of the Head of State himself.
M&B: All mining companies in Kolwezi will 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 the most mining events elsewhere, we will have a stand, where we will make 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 of the minerals trade.
M&B : And the event is directly organized by the province?
H.E RM: No, it will be organised by the National Ministry of Mines, but it’s the province that will take care of the most aspect of the organisation.
M&B : Thank you.