The Tenke project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is one of the largest copper-cobalt deposits. The American company Freeport McMoRan (formerly Phelps Dodge) and Canada’s Tenke Mining together hold a majority stake in the project.
On July 17, 2007, the EIB approved a EUR 100 million loan for the project. However under pressure of civil society, the EIB committed itself not to disburse any of the money before the DRC government and the other lenders gave there final approval.
Indeed, the bank’s decision was highly controversial. The contract between Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) and the Congolese government was one of the 60 mining contracts signed during the war and under the transitional government in DRC which suffered strong suspicions of corruption. At the time of the EIB decision to support Tenke, all those contracts, including TFM’s, were under examination by an inter-ministerial commission in Kinshasa and were suspected of irregularities, including a lack of transparency, undeclared conflicts of interest, questionable payments, and the inclusion of terms that were highly disadvantageous to the DRC government.
At the same time, the financing of a large-scale mining project does not correspond to any of the priorities defined by the EU for cooperation with DRC. Extraction activities only can contribute to the achievement of the Cotonou Agreement’s objectives (poverty alleviation and the promotion of sustainable development) under certain conditions of governance, environmental protection or respect for human rights, none of which are met in DRC.
Besides, NGO raised concerns about the fact that the EIB agreed to finance a large scale open pit mine such as Tenke, one that entails significant environmental and social impacts, even though the bank still lacks adequate norms and procedure to assess and mitigate such impacts.
The Congolese inter-ministerial commission that was examining the 60 mining contracts came to the conclusion that none of these contracts were legal, including Tenke. This report was kept secret for months until it was leaked in a Congolese newspaper in 2008.
A very secretive renegotiation process started between the Congolese government and the mining companies, despite calls from CSO to conduct a fair and open process to ensure DRC receive an equitable share from the exploitation of its natural resources. Tenke negotiations appeared to be blocked for months.
In the meantime, Counter Balance and the Congolese NGO ACIDH published a report revealing human right’s violation and social tensions around the project as the exploitation of the minerals had already started : “Soul mining: The EIB‘s role in the Tenke Fungurume Mine, DRC”. Prince Kumwamba, co-author of the report and director of the Congolese NGO ACIDH, travelled to Europe in November 2008 to testify to the situation of the project. He demanded EU institutions to shift development money to projects that would really support poverty reduction in DRC.
In April 2010, the EIB finally announced that it will not finance the first phase of the Tenke Fungurume mining project, as the conditions attached to the loan were never met. Despite this failure, the EIB stated that it continues to have an interest in cooperating with TFM in the future.
After a very long, opaque and criticized renegotiation, a new agreement was found between TFM and the Congolese government at the end of 2010.
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