KINSHASA May 8 (Reuters) - Copper and gold production in Democratic Republic of Congo rose sharply in the first quarter of 2015, despite continuing uncertainty about a proposed revision of the mining code.
Congo, which vies with Zambia to be Africa’s leading copper producer, mined 279,573 tonnes of the metal during the quarter, according to the cental bank’s March statistical bulletin. That was up 13.7 percent from 245,868 tonnes over the same period in 2014.
Gold production jumped to 8,457 kilogrammes in the first quarter of 2015 from 4,972 kg over the same period last year, a 70 percent rise.
Large new gold mines opened by companies like Randgold Resources, AngloGold Ashanti and Banro Corporation in the last four years have boosted Congo’s industrial gold output from near zero in 2011 to over 20 tonnes last year. The country hopes to become one of the continent’s leading gold producers.
The central African country also boasts vast reserves of cobalt, diamonds, tin and tantalum, and the mining sector accounts for about 10 percent of its GDP.
Congo’s government submitted a revision of its 2002 mining code to parliament in March against fierce industry objections. Mining companies say that tax and royalty increases in the proposed code would deter new investment in the sector.
The vice president of Congo’s chamber of mines, Simon Tuma-Waku, told Reuters on Monday that Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo’s office had recalled the draft legislation from parliament last week in order to deal with it personally.
Randgold CEO Mark Bristow said last month that the prime minister’s office had assured him that the government would re-open negotiations over the code’s fiscal terms. [nID:L5N0XH4CR]
However, Albert Mbafumoya, an adviser to the prime minister on mining, denied on Tuesday that the legislation had been recalled.
The proposed code has yet to be taken up by parliament.
Congo registered record copper and gold production in 2014, producing over 1 million tonnes of copper for the first time in its history. [nID:L5N0VZ5DP] (Reporting By Aaron Ross; editing by Joe Bavier and William Hardy)