Gold to flow from Congo's cloud-capped hills

Thu Oct 6, 2011 12:23pm EDT
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By Jonny Hogg

TWANGIZA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - - High in the hills of Congo's troubled northeast, a modern mine is ready to pour gold for the first time in five decades.

For the past year, Canada's Banro has been defying the odds to build its $209 million Twangiza mine in a region known as much for its conflicts as for its mineral riches.

Mining equipment was shipped from Australia, China and South Africa, trucked more than 1,000 km into the heart of Africa, before being assembled 2,500 meters up in near-vertical terrain sometimes shrouded in clouds.

The feat, gold miners hope, marks the start of a new period for mining in the eastern reaches of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Major mining groups Randgold Resources, AngloGold Ashanti and others are also on track to cash in on reserves that could make the DRC one of Africa's largest gold producers in the next decade.

Banro bought their concession from private European investors in 1996, at the start of a turbulent political period, when successive wars tore the region apart and left more than five million dead.

Today, eight years after the end of the last conflict, South Kivu province is still haunted by armed groups fighting the Congolese army, with both sides accused of human rights abuses.

GOLD BELT   Continued...

<p>An employee stands in an open pit at Banro's Twangiza mine in eastern Congo, September 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tom Kirkwood</p>