Modern Mining: Featured News

I have to hand it to the Alphamin team that is developing the Bisie tin mine in the depths of the DRC. Despite the mine being located in North Kivu province, an area which has been plagued with political instability in the fairly recent past and which is almost devoid of modern infrastructure, they’ve made incredible progress with the project over the past year.

Arthur Tassell commentA contractor is already hard at work developing the underground mine, construction of the processing plant is due to start early in 2018 and first production of tin concentrate is expected in the first quarter of 2019.

This is an impressive achievement if one considers that the mine was all but inaccessible (except by foot or by helicopter) until well into last year, when Alphamin carved out a 38 km access road through the dense tropical forest that covers much of North Kivu.

Even with the road in place, travelling to Bisie is still fairly time-consuming, as I saw for myself on a recent trip to the project organised by Alphamin for a small group of journalists.

Getting to Goma, the capital of North Kivu, was the easy part. We flew from Johannesburg to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and from there it was a three-hour drive to the Rwandan town of Gisenyi, at the northern end of Lake Kivu. Gisenyi adjoins Goma, which is where one crosses into the DRC.

Bisie lies about 180 km to the north-west of Goma and is accessed from the Goma-Walikale-Kisangani road. The problem is that the road is currently in a state of disrepair and apparently all but impossible to negotiate unless you have a few days to spare.

The alternative to driving is obviously to go by air, which is what we did. This involved a 30-minute fixed wing charter flight from Goma to Walikale ‘airport’, which is actually a section of the main road which is still in good condition and which serves as a landing strip. One might think that landing (and taking off) on a fairly narrow strip of asphalt might be hair-raising but not so. Our skilled pilots made the experience seem totally routine. From the ‘airport’ it is still another three to four hours (depending on how much rain there’s been) to the mine by four-wheel drive vehicle.

Alphamin’s senior executives including Boris Kamstra, the company’s MD, Trevor Faber, who is COO (and is based on the mine and directing its construction), and Richard Robinson, MD of Alphamin’s DRC subsidiary, accompanied our group throughout the tour.

I’ve often listened to Boris talking about Bisie in Johannesburg and describing its beauty and now – having visited myself – I can see he was not exaggerating. The tropical forest in the Walikale area is indeed spectacularly beautiful and, for the most part, untouched by human settlement.

Boris has long argued that the narrative of North Kivu being an unstable and insecure part of the world is outdated. Obviously, a two-day trip – such as the one I was on – is insufficient to allow one to come to any firm conclusions but I can certainly verify that our group saw absolutely nothing untoward throughout our visit. North Kivu – at least the parts we saw – appeared to be entirely at peace and community members we interacted with were, without exception, friendly and welcoming.

I will be writing at length about Bisie in an upcoming issue but, in the meantime, my thanks to Boris and his colleagues for one of the most memorable trips that I’ve enjoyed during the nearly 20 years I’ve been reporting on mining in Africa.

Arthur Tassell

Contact Modern Mining

Title: Editor
Name: Arthur Tassell
Email: mining@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Bennie Venter
Email: benniev@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

BANNER 9

 
Full Name*
Invalid Input

Company Name*
Invalid Input

Your Email*
Invalid Input

Phone*
Invalid Input

Postal Address 1*
Invalid Input

Postal Address 2*
Invalid Input

Postal Code*
Invalid Input

Street Address 1
Invalid Input

Street Address 2
Invalid Input

Postal Code
Invalid Input

Town / City*
Invalid Input

Country*
Invalid Input

Magazine

Invalid Input

Invalid Input