Photographer: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Congolese Troops to Protect Richest Untapped Tin Deposit

  • There’s a ‘military curtain’ shielding project to its east
  • Alphamin says Bisie mine is the highest grade in the world

The Democratic Republic of Congo has promised to help Alphamin Resources Corp. to protect the world’s highest-grade untapped tin deposit.

Construction of the mine has already started in a remote part of North Kivu, an eastern province, and Alphamin intends to have the $152 million project fully funded by the end of the year, Chief Executive Officer Boris Kamstra said Tuesday. A large part of the project’s success will depend on maintaining security in a region that hosts armed militia groups and eliminating illegal mining.

“The DRC government has been hugely supportive in that we now have a very strong military presence in our area,” Kamstra told reporters at a Johannesburg briefing attended by North Kivu Minister of Mines Anselme Kitakya. “In essence we’ve got a military curtain between ourselves and the east of us which is largely unpopulated forest.”

A military and police presence will help make sure Alphamin can mine unhindered by local bandits, and authorities have also pledged to ensure stability following an upcoming national election. The vote was first due in November but has been delayed, meaning President Joseph Kabila has remained in power despite being required by the constitution to step down last year.

Artisanal Miners

There are also as many as 800 artisanal miners in the area and Alphamin is working with the government to move them to legal sites where small-scale mining is allowed, Kamstra said.

The government has signed a treaty to define a framework for Grand Baie, Mauritius-based Alphamin to operate within its territory and any illegal mining activity will “resisted,” Kitakya said.

As many as 15,000 diggers descended on Bisie, as the site is known, in 2008 when tin prices soared to more than $25,000 a metric ton, creating a clapboard town complete with bars, money lenders and brothels. The mine became the focal point for advocacy groups including Global Witness, which said the trade in minerals from eastern Congo that found their way into consumer electronics was driving war and violence.

READ: Mountain of Tin Draws Investors to World’s Largest Untapped Site

“It was the poster child for conflict minerals,” said Richard Robinson, managing director of Alphamin Congo. “We’re continuing to struggle with the criminal interests behind the artisanal trade” but the company is working closely with government officials to secure the site, he said.

With more than 3.5 million tons of reserves at a grade of 4.3 percent of tin per ton, Bisie will deliver an internal rate of return of 49 percent, according to Alphamin’s website. That’s based on a tin price of $17,300 a ton. 

Tin has climbed about 40 percent since the beginning of 2016, and traded at $20,300 a ton by 8:55 a.m. in London.

— With assistance by Thomas Wilson, and William Clowes

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