While African warlords and their shady business partners fight over the vast mineral riches of the Democratic Republic of Congo, another battle, over a huge copper mine, is escalating between a Canadian company and the government.
The dispute between the Kinshasa regime and First Quantum, a Toronto copper miner, is now before international arbitration. The outcome could have a significant impact on future foreign investment in the DRC, which has been ravaged by war since 1994 in which the big prize is its mineral wealth.
"Large mining companies have eyed Congo's mineral wealth for years but have refrained from investing until pioneers such as First Quantum proved that their licenses were secure," the Financial Times commented.
"First Quantum now seems to have been systematically stripped of all its assets in the country, even as it disputes these alleged 'expropriations' through an international court in Paris".
First Quantum shut down its Kolwezi mine, one of the largest in the Congo, in September 2009 on orders from Kinshasa, which cited contract violations and other unspecified misconduct.
The company closed its other copper mine, Frontier, Aug. 30, again on government orders. It claims Kinshasa had seized its mines, without cause or compensation, then sold them to other companies.