DR Congo Diamond Mining Giant Struggles To Revive Its Glory Days

(@FahadShabbir)

DR Congo diamond mining giant struggles to revive its glory days

MbujiMayi, DR Congo, June 7 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 7th Jun, 2021 ) :Mbuji-Mayi has seen better days.

Once the home of DR Congo's state diamond company MIBA, the town used to be filled with free-spending miners and their families, who brought a giddy touch of prosperity to remote Kasai-Oriental province.

But at the end of last century, MIBA -- the Bakwanga Mining Company -- began to go into a long downward spiral, taking the town with it.

Poor management, crumbling infrastructure, embezzlement and looting, especially during the two Great Congo Wars between 1997 and 2003, left MIBA crippled by debt and at the mercy of plummeting commodity prices.

It shut down at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, resuming operations in 2011, but remains a shadow of its former self.

From an annual output averaging six million carats -- mainly of industrial diamonds -- in the early 2000s, production was no more than 500,000 carats in 2008 and half that in 2011.

Today the situation in Mbuji-Mayi is a far cry from the 1980s, when some 40,000 workers and their families drew their sustenance from the company.

MIBA owes several months of back pay to its employees, according to staffers who requested anonymity.

"When the company was still operating, the roads and houses were maintained. When the corrugated roofs were rusted, they were automatically replaced," said one resident, Mpoy Bilenga, outside his dilapidated home.

Bilenga, a former driver for the company, has been retired since 2012 but says he is still waiting to receive a pension for "services rendered".

But the 70-year-old is not banking on it: "We don't know our fate... several of us have died without receiving a pension," he said.

Set up in 1961, MIBA is 80 percent state-owned, while a Belgian company, Sibeka, has a 20-percent stake.

A government audit published in May 2020 revealed "serious dysfunction".