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Congo Seeks South Africa Bank Funds for Diamond Mines

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned diamond miner, MIBA, is in talks with South African banks to obtain funds to revive its operations, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said.

“We need to find $150 million to $200 million to wake up this giant,” Kabwelulu said today at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town. Officials from MIBA are in South Africa to seek funding, he said.

Since the company closed its doors in November 2008, almost all of Congo’s diamond production has been artisanal, according to the Mines Ministry. Last November, Jeffrey Ovian, former Congo country director of First Quantum Minerals Ltd., became MIBA’s director. The company, based in the Eastern Kasai province in central Congo, is 20 percent owned by Mwana Africa Plc in London.

Congo, which is head of the Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme for 2011, gave MIBA $10 million in August.

The country’s role in the Kimberley Process will keep Congolese diamond mining under the spotlight this year, Alyson Warhurst, chief executive officer of the risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft, said today.

“The timing is good to demonstrate that good governance is in place for diamond operations,” Warhurst said by phone from Bath, England. “It’s only through investment and a particular framework whereby responsible businesses could invest in DRC that diamonds could contribute to its development.”

Rio Tinto Plc is seeking partners for diamond and copper projects in Congo, Kevin Fox, project manager at the company, said in a speech at Indaba today. On Jan. 28, BRC Diamondcore Ltd. announced it had resumed diamond operations in Congo and entered into a new joint venture arrangement with Rio Tinto Mining and Exploration Ltd.

To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net; Michael Kavanagh in Kinshasa on Mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amanda Jordan at ajordan11@bloomberg.net.

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