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New mining codes in DRC called 'more than a necessity'

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New mining codes in DRC called 'more than a necessity'

The chief diplomatic adviser to the Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila defended recent changes to the country's mining laws March 20, saying rising prices for metals such as cobalt required the government to take action to ensure more corporate profits are shared with Congolese citizens.

"The mining law of 2002 was a law that was signed at [a] time when we needed to lure foreign capital to come to the Congo. We were just out of a war, so it was a law that was favorable to international investors," Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi said at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "So the new law is more than a necessity so that at least something can get to the people."

The new law Kabila signed earlier in March, which raised royalties and taxes on operators, "says that the super profit that mining companies are making, let's share 50-50," bin Karubi said. He added that a commission was created to try to "accommodate" the concerns of mining companies.

The DRC, which observers say is in a state of crisis amid mounting violence, accounts for more than half of global production of cobalt, a metal whose value has risen dramatically in recent years with a surge in demand for electric vehicles. However, the country has yet to see the benefits of its natural resources, bin Karubi said.

"Congo is known ... as a rich country with the poorest population," he added.

Miners have complained the new code will cut too deeply into profits and hurt investment.

The regulatory overhaul was carried out months before a presidential election that is scheduled for Dec. 23.

Tom Perriello, a former U.S. special envoy in Africa, said holding the election is crucial for investments in the DRC.

"I'll be very blunt — there is no private sector interest in the DRC right now," Perriello said March 20 in Washington. Companies are "cutting deals for future mining rights, but no one's investing until after this election crisis is over."

Bin Karubi said "elections are a certainty," adding that Kabila will not be a candidate.