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Nowhere is artisanal and small-scale gold-mining anchored more deeply into the history, economy and suffering of the Congolese people than it is in the Ituri District, the western section of Ortientale Province.Over the past 15 years, beginning with the First Congo War, Ituri’s gold-mining regions spiralled into uncontrolled ethnic violence.
However, the terms of these contracts soon became subject to contentious renegotiations because the DRC government discovered a number of unfair terms.
By 2007, the original permit holders had to surrender their rights and make room for new international partnerships: International gold-mining companies have also shown increasing interest in gold deposits located outside the OKIMO properties.
Loncor Resources has acquired several exploration rights in the province, one of which is located at Ngayu, 270km northeast of Kisangani.
Around Yindi, important gold deposits were historically exploited by Belgian enterprises.
Beginning in 2004, the UN and the Transitional Government of the Congo made a determined effort to bring peace to Ituri.
Eventually, the leaders of the most violent militias were sent off for prosecution at the ICC in The Hague, others were incarcerated in Kinshasa and international mining companies were invited back to restore the dilapidated operations.At that point, OKIMO existed only as a terribly undermanaged entity, with its staff in Bunia thinking and operating as if they were independent of the company’s headquarters in Kinshasa During the post-war period, exploration agreements between OKIMO and international joint venture partners, such as Anglo Gold Ashanti and Motogold, were signed under less than transparent conditions.A third international partner, Mwana Africa, obtained exploration rights.Thanks to the strong interest of industrial mining companies, the region should experience significant growth in the coming years.For artisanal and small-scale miners, however, this is a time of heightened concerns.For some, eventual displacement and loss of access to traditional artisanal mining might be inevitable. Social impact mitigation schemes require that all companies wishing to engage in industrial mining in the DRC provide employment, resettlement in furnished housing, schools and improved medical care for local residents and artisanal miners.