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Global Witness wary over China, DR.Congo deal

by Staff Writers
Kinshasa (AFP) March 8, 2011
Global Witness Tuesday criticised as opaque a $6 billion infrastructure-for-mining deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and China, saying it could not be monitored.

The ambiguity of the deal, never published by the parties, made it hard to measure whether its pledges were being met, the watchdog body said, also raising concerns about some provisions.

DR Congo has promised Chinese state firms up to 10 million tonnes of copper and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cobalt, it said in a statement.

In return they will complete infrastructure projects including roads, railways, hydroelectric power stations, universities and health centres.

The deal was first signed in 2007 and covered investment of $9 billion, roughly the same value as the Congolese budget at the time, Global Witness said.

It was renegotiated in 2009, under pressure notably from the International Monetary Fund, to $6 billion, half for infrastructure and half for the mining sector.

"The huge potential of a multibillion-dollar deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and China risks being undermined because the agreement is opaque and key terms are ill-defined," the statement said.

"Neither the Congolese nor the Chinese parties have properly explained how the minerals are to be priced, nor what infrastructure is to be built and at what cost.

"This ambiguity makes it very hard to measure whether pledges are being met."

"If you can't tell what's been promised, you can't tell whether it has been delivered, or even if you want it at all," campaigner Lizzie Parsons said.

Global Witness also raised concerns about the destination of millions of dollars in a bonus payment and a clause seen in a leaked contract that exempts a mining company from any new law passed in the central African country.

No consideration was given in the leaked version to social and environmental protection, it added.

"China is striking similar deals across Africa. This agreement will be a revealing test case for whether these deals really will deliver mutual benefits to those who sign them," Parsons said.

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