The city of Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of the Kasai-Oriental province in south-central DR Congo is once home to the country’s state diamond company, MIBA- the Bakwanga Mining Company.
Poor management, crumbling infrastructure, embezzlement and looting, especially during the two Great Congo Wars between 1997 and 2003, left MIBA crippled by debt and at the mercy of plummeting commodity prices.
The facility was closed at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
From an annual output averaging six million carats, mainly of industrial diamonds, in the early 2000s, production was no more than 500,000 carats in 2008 and half that in 2011.
Despite a resumption of operations, a decade ago, the company is still a shadow of its former glory.
“Mining has resumed with a view to relaunching with the help of the government. Five million dollars, a payment that Gécamine gave to Miba. The mine is operational, exploitation is under way, but at a minimal level”, said Raphael Mukadi Tshindundu, technical director of Miba.
That $5 million dollars was released in August last year by President Felix Tshisekedi, who hails from the Kasai region.
Managers of the facility say the inadequate capital injection was to help MIBA become profitable.
But buyers like Ilunga want to see much more from the government.
“If MIBA’s activity had really resumed, we would have felt it, life would have resumed, money would flow. The government owes Miba a lot of money. It does not have the will to pay this debt. If they pay Miba, Kasai will be much better off”, said Alphonse Ilunga, a diamond buyer.
Set up in 1961, MIBA is 80% state-owned, with a 20 % stake by a Belgian company.
A government audit published in May 2020 revealed “serious dysfunction”.