Labour Segmentation and Structural Stagnation: The Return of Industrial Mining to the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Date: 9 November 2017

Venue: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus, IOB, Nile Room - Gebouw S , Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 ANTWERP (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: IOB

Short description: Seminar by Ben Radley, PhD student at ISS

About the seminar

In 2012, the Canadian multinational corporation (MNC) Banro began commercial gold production in the rural government locality of Luhwindja, in South Kivu Province of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It was the first company to begin industrial mineral production in the Kivu region since the end of the Congo Wars (1996-2003). Today, Banro operates two gold mine projects, Canadian-listed Alphamin Resources is set to begin industrial tin production in North Kivu in 2019, and many mining exploration companies are actively seeking production opportunities.

Through its focus on the emerging labour and accumulation regimes associated with Banro’s Twangiza mine, my PhD research seeks to understand the implications of the revival of industrial mining in the eastern DRC for local and national development trajectories (as well as for other least-developed, post-conflict African countries subject to similar changes in their mining economies).

By analysing the longue durée of mining in the rural government locality of Luhwindja, it is argued that the recent arrival of Banro has conflicted with pre-existing logics of labour mobilisation and organisation, and that the manifestation of this conflict has been heightened by the profundity of the agrarian crisis surrounding the corporation’s mine. While this gave rise to multiple local responses which have forced the company to compromise with these logics, the underlying structural conditions fuelling the confrontation remain unchanged. Banro’s entry has also introduced organisational segmentation at the point of production, resulting in the corporation’s exploitation of a partially informal and fully segregated (and therefore poorly organised) workforce.

Organisational segmentation has simultaneously created fresh opportunities for domestic accumulation, but in the absence of state intervention these remain structurally limited by the uncompetitive nature of Congolese industry and Banro’s subcontracting and procurement practices. At the national level, capture of the mining surplus by the Congolese state under the Kabila administration has been low, undermined by MNC behaviour and state inefficiencies, and the productive use and redistribution of this surplus to the provincial and local levels poor.

Despite World Bank and Government rhetoric on the objective of structural transformation through mining, fifteen years after mining sector reform the DRC remains heavily dependent upon external mineral price structures for its internal political and economic stability, as current events in the country demonstrate. The preceding analysis draws into question the role proscribed for the state by past reform, and provides insights for future priorities.

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