Diamonds were first discovered in Congo in 1906. Diamonds provide more than 50% of Congo’s foreign exchange. Production is estimated to be 19 million carats. The country’s diamond centre is Eastern Kasai province. There are diamonds deposits at Tshibwue, Kakonga and Ndaye.
Miniere de Bakwange (MIBA), the national diamond mining company, is owned 80% by the Congo government and 20% by Sibeka of Belgium. Miba is among the world’s largest producers of industrial diamonds with an output of 6 million carats a year. De Beers has a 20% investment in Belgian based company Sibeka.
Miba’s output of diamonds appears to have slowed since the new government came to power and could be less than 6 million carats in 1997. Production of small scale mining operations has also declined. The 1996 output from Miba was 6.5 million carats of industrial and near gem diamonds valued at US$80 million. Miba production increased in 1995 to 5.5 million carats. Production dropped from 9.5 million carats in 1990 to 4.8 million in 1994.
However, Miba’s output is only a fraction of Congo’s estimated diamond production of US$350 million. It is difficult to calculate Congo’s diamond wealth as much of the production is sold locally to the licensed buying offices or smuggled out to Antwerp. An unknown proportion of this consists of smuggled Angolan diamonds, much of which come from Unita.
De Beers has reopened its Mbuji-Mayi buying office and has regained its status as the principal diamond agent in the DRC where the state diamond mining company Mieniere de Bakwanga (Miba) produced 6.5 million carats of diamonds in 1996. De Beers holds a 20% stake in Miba, and markets about one third of the country’s diamonds. The DRC is the world’s second largest producer of industrial diamonds and a major producer of gem quality diamonds. Smuggling is a problem but the government is working to combat this.
The Namibian Minerals Corporation (Namco) has acquired prospecting rights in Kwango, Zaire, about 25 kilometres from the Angolan border.
Ashanti Goldfields was asked to assist with diversifying mining operations at the Miba diamond mine to exploit nickel, chrome, cobalt, gold and silver deposits on its 73,000 km2 mining concession.