Canadian head of Congo state miner Gecamines quits

Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:08am EDT
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By Joe Bavier

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Canadian head of Democratic Republic of Congo's state mining firm Gecamines said on Wednesday he had resigned.

"It's a friendly resignation," Paul Fortin told Reuters. "I stepped down. I was at it for four years and it will take more time to sort things out, but I think it's time to pass on to a new chief."

Gecamines was once one of Congo's biggest mineral exporters, but barely functions as a mining operation after years of neglect and maladministration.

"I was appointed for 18 months, and I stayed for four years," Fortin said. "You chip away at the problems, but they are still there. We've made progress. I'm satisfied."

During his tenure, lawyer Fortin was credited with calming workers by paying back wages.

He also oversaw much of Gecamines' transition from non-functioning state miner to landholder joint venture partner in a period when many international resources firms invested in copper and cobalt mining in Congo.

Mining revenues, which depend largely on production volumes and international commodity prices, are a mainstay of Congo's public finances.

The price of copper, Congo's principal mineral export, hit a record high of almost $9,000 per tonne in 2008, and many firms rushed to build mines there.   Continued...