REFILE-Petrol suppliers in Congo mining hub strike over tax increase

Thu Jun 4, 2015 8:42am EDT
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KINSHASA June 4 (Reuters) - Petrol suppliers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's mining hub of Katanga province went on strike on Thursday morning to protest a recent fuel tax hike, local residents said.

The indefinite strike, called by the Congolese Business Federation (FEC), could affect some mining companies, businesses and millions of residents in the southeastern province.

An economy ministry decree last week raised fuel taxes in the southern regions of the country by 12 percent while reducing them in the west by 33 percent.

All petrol stations in Lubumbashi were closed and several were also shut in the mining town of Kolwezi, 300 km (186.41 miles) to the northwest, residents said.

Patrick Muland, a vice-president of the FEC's Katanga branch, said the strike was in response to government favoritism toward larger suppliers like Total and Engen based in the country's west over smaller suppliers in the south.

Katanga accounts for all of Congo's industrial copper extraction, which surpassed 1 million tonnes for the first time ever in 2014. Many miners rely on their own power generators to compensate for a chronic lack of electricity.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Bate Felix and Tom Heneghan)