Gold was first discovered at Namoya in 1931 and production from alluvial operations continued through to 1947. Gold mining commenced from an open pit in 1951. It is estimated that about 128 000 oz of gold was recovered from quartz veins grading 10 g/t until civil disturbance, due to the DRC’s newly achieved independence from Belgium in 1960, resulted in operations being closed and expatriates leaving the country. Since then minimum exploration has taken place. Most of the DRC’s gold production comes from the north eastern and eastern parts of the country, which are currently controlled by rebel factions as a result the production of gold is outside the central government’s control .
The Kamituga-Mobale mine was producing 800 000oz/year, until the recent civil war leading to the change in government in the DR Congo. Prior to flooding at the mine in 1997, gold production came from the underground operation where mining over the past four years averaged 30,000 tons of ore at a grade of 9.9 g/t of gold. The mine’s operating efficiency was low due to a lack of funding and the complicated ore extraction system.
At Lugushwa an attempt is being made to increase the gold reserves at the known deposits, and to identify the primary source of the widespread alluvial gold that exists throughout the concession. The first phase of work includes mapping and rock sampling. Lubushwa represents a large exploration area that exhibits similar characteristics to the Ashanti Goldfields trend in Ghana. Gold production was 800 kg a year in the early 1960s.
The state owned Okimo gold mine has a reported production capacity of six tons of gold a year. Production fell from 400 kg of gold in 1990 to 55 kg in 1995. The company signed an agreement with Barrick Gold Corporation that has yet to be confirmed by the new government. The Kimin Gold Mining Company whose activities were suspended by the government is looking to raise its production from 1.5 tons to 8 tons of gold a year from gold reserves of some 124 tons. US$161 million is required to raise production to the eight ton a year mark. In 2001, Ghana based Ashanti Goldfields increased their ground holding in the Kimin Concession to 6000 km2. No exploration is being carried out over the highly prospective Kilo Greenstone Belt, pending on an outcome of the ongoing DREC peace process.
As in diamonds, nearly all of the DRC’s gold producers are now rebel controlled. As a result, gold production is erratic, declining rapidly to 134kg in 1998 (officially). The only companies to have made any progress in DRC gold exploration projects are Banro and the Anglo American/Barrick joint venture.
Banro Resource Corporation controls through it’s 93% owned subsidiary, SAKIMA SARL, 10 mining permits and 47 mining concessions encompassing an area of 10,271 km2 in the eastern parts of the DRC. Activities have been suspended due to conflict in the east. Following a settlement with the DRC Government, Banro now has a 100% title to the Twangiza, Kamituga, Lugushwa and Namoya gold deposits, whilst the Government retains all of the tin rights. Cluff Mining PLC, through its subsidiary Cluff Mining (Congo) has an interest in Banro as well as interests in four exploration prospects in the Kisenge Region.
AngloGold has joined Barrick Gold on an exploration programme covering 57 000 km2 of the northeast portion of the DRC, adjoining Sudan to the north and Uganda to the east. A potential open cast operation is undergoing feasibility studies. However, a major portion of the orebody is highly refractory. Drilling to test other parts of the system have been halted due to unrest.