Ahmed Kalej Nkand, the chief executive officer for Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-run largest copper producer, Gecamines has been fired for alleged ‘gross negligence’ according to a Presidential decree issued by the Presidency, Reuter’s reports.
Although Government officials have not divulged details and reasons for the dismissal of Nkand, it says the action is with immediate effect, Reuters reported citing a report issued on the country’s owned state television on Saturday, 26 July.
The government issued had issued a stern warning to Gecamines last year against selling the country’s assets without its approval, highlighting concerns over the transparency of mining deals and the running of the company.
Gecamines’ management has also been criticised by the International Monetary Fund for a lack of transparency in the sale of assets following concerns that stakes in projects had been sold for considerably less than their market value.
On Sunday, 27 July during a press conference in the capital Kinshasa, Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo said ‘only that Kalej had committed errors of governance’.
“An audit was carried out in a fully professional manner and at a meeting with the administrative council of (Gecamines) serious errors of governance were recognised by the head of management,” said Ponyo.
“We had to bring sanctions, and it was decided that (Kalej) would be dismissed.” He did not elaborate.
Pony, said this during the press conference held jointly with Makhtar Diop, the vice president of the World Bank who was concluding a four-day visit to Congo.
Diop congratulated the Congolese government for reducing annual inflation to around 1.4% and for achieving economic growth of 8.5% in 2013, set to rise to 8.7% this year, Reuters adds.
These successes have been built on a booming mining sector. Congo produced a record 942 000 t of copper in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund, and Congo’s mining chamber says industrial gold output is due to triple in 2014.
Despite its vast mineral reserves of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and tin, the majority of Congo’s 65-million people remain impoverished due to mismanagement, corruption and cyclical violence in the country’s volatile eastern provinces.
While the private sector in mining is doing well, Gecamines has been symptomatic of that broader dysfunction. In its heyday in the 1908s, it produced nearly 500 000 t of copper.
Years of neglect saw output plummet and the firm said it produced just 35 000 t in 2012. In June, thousands of Gecamines employees in Katanga downed tools over three months of unpaid wages.
At that time Kalej had said the company was seeking to raise $160-million so that it could begin a restructuring programme that would involve letting go half of its 12 000 workers.
Founded in 1966 and a forerunner of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, Gecamines is engaged in the exploration, research, exploitation and production of mineral deposits including copper, cobalt, tin, gold, zinc, among others.
One of the largestmining companies in Africa, and the biggest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gécamines sits on the world’s greatest deposit of cobalt and is the eighth-largest producer of copper in the world.
Located in the mineral-rich Katanga Province, Gécamines is currently going through a $3 billion reorganization Strategic Development Plan (2012-2016) with the main objective of repositioning itself as one of the world’s top mining majors, mainly by focusing on core strategic assets in which the company has majority shares.
To boost its production and regain its lost lustre, it has also recently forged partnerships and joint ventures with companies such as Anglo-Swiss Glencore International, American giant Freeport-McMoran and London-based Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation.