The head of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s state mining company was sacked on Friday after long-standing allegations that billions of dollars in revenue were lost.
Albert Yuma Mulimbi, who has been president of the company since 2010, was replaced by Congo President Felix Tshisekedi a few days after The New York Times. published an article New allegations are emerging against Mr. Yuma.
The government agency known as Gécamines controls the production of metals such as cobalt and copper, which are important metals for expanding electric vehicles and other renewable energy sources. Without his presidency, Mr. Yuma will no longer have an important role in partnering with international companies in major mining deals.
“The importance of this development is hard to underestimate – an important step in the fight against corruption in the Congo,” said J. Peter Pham, a senior Central African official at the US State Department until January. “Albert Yuma and the mining industry stand at the nexus of natural resources, political and economic power in the country.”
An industry executive said that, at least for now, Mr. Yuma will continue his role of overseeing the reform of small-scale and informal mining in the Congo. Their plans include purchasing cobalt from informal miners, also known as artisanal miners, and adjusting pricing. Cobalt produced by artisanal mining as opposed to industrial operations accounts for about 30 percent of the country’s production.
It also announced plans to improve security at these sites. Child labor and frequent injuries and deaths associated with such mining have drawn international attention, driving new US investors away and even some car manufacturers Reluctant to buy cobalt from Congo.
the country is responsible more than two-thirds is the world’s largest producer of cobalt and also copper. Although prices have skyrocketed in recent years, Gécamines Criticized during Mr. Yuma’s tenure for sign an agreement with foreign mining companies, including organizations Supported by the Chinese government. The arrangements effectively handed over the country’s extraordinary mineral wealth for foreigners to profit.
Senior State Department officials had called on the Biden administration to sanction Mr. Yuma, who told The Times he was accused of perverting so much by his own count. 8.8 billion dollars in mining revenues over the years.
He was separately banned from entering the United States in 2018 and has since hired a group of lobbyists and lawyers in Washington to try and fight any sanctions that could freeze his money in international banks.
Mr. Yuma, a longtime electricity broker in the Congo and one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. But in a series of interviews with The Times in recent months, he has described the accusations against him as fabricated by foreign agitators seeking to undermine Congo’s sovereignty.
In a document he provided in October, sought the allegations “True smear campaigns,” he said, whose critics seek to “taint the country’s reputation and blur its main role in favor of the country by reforming its mining policy.”
For decades, Gécamines has been one of the Congo’s largest sources of revenue, controlling concessions to and collecting royalties from major international mining companies. The firm produced last year 324 million dollars.
Mr. Yuma was appointed president by the country’s former president, Joseph Kabila; US officials believe they are working closely with Mr. Yuma to divert agency funds to political ends and possibly enrich Mr. Kabila’s family.
After taking office, Mr. Tshisekedi was re-appointed as chairman in 2019. State Department officials told The Times that Mr. Yuma was considering serving as Congo prime minister that year, a move that the United States was opposed to serving as acting Mr. Kabila.
Mr. Yuma will now be replaced by Kaputo Kalubi Alphonse, whom Mr. Tshisekedi appointed to the administrative council of Gécamines three years ago. In a sign of the key role Gécamines plays in the Congo, Mr Tshisekedi’s spokesperson announced the new appointment on national television on Friday.
Leon Mwine, who was appointed to a senior position at Gécamines by Mr Tshisekedi in 2019, said executives realized they needed to prove to the world that the agency could change course.
“Values such as honesty, transparency and integrity are these core values that we need to compete in the international market,” said Mr. Mwine.