CONGO: Anvil Mining Hammered Over Military Assistance

Publisher Name: 
MineWeb

P

ERTH
--
Just days after AngloGold Ashanti fended off allegations of paying
bribes to militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Anvil
Mining has come under intense scrutiny over its supply of
air and ground transport to the DRC army for an operation that led to
the alleged slaughter of more than 100 people last October.


It is understood the government requested the use of Anvil's air
services and land vehicles to help mobilise Congolese troops to Kilwa,
about 50km from the company's Dikulushi mine and where a rebel
incursion had been reported.


While this week confirming it acquiesced to the government's wishes,
Anvil insists it had no choice and vehemently denies any responsibility
for what transpired at Kilwa. "Anvil had no option but to agree to the
request, made by the military of the lawful government of DRC," said
the Australia-based DRC copper and silver producer in an ASX statement.
"Anvil had no knowledge of what was planned for the military operation,
and was not involved in the military operation in any way."


The Kilwa rebel activity saw Anvil evacuate non-essential mine
personnel and suspend production at Dikulushi for a short time. In its
December 2004 quarterly report, the company appears to be commending
the army's response. "The government and military response on both
provincial and national levels was rapid and supportive of the prompt
resumption of operations," the miner stated.


Chief executive Bill Turner, who has been under siege since the
initial findings of a damning UN report were revealed, has lashed out
at suggestions Anvil played a hand in the massacre which, the UN
indicated, may have included up to 28 executions. "The idea that Anvil
somehow influenced the military action, or should be seen as complicit
in the military action, is nonsense," he said. "The allegations made
against Anvil are deplorable, and without foundation."

Allowing the DRC's armed forces to deploy the Dikulushi mine's
trucks and hired plane has stirred up a hornet's nest and Anvil's
attempted distancing from the events that ensued is not washing with
some observers. Aid agency Oxfam Australia executive director, Andrew
Hewett, believes the deaths might have been prevented if Anvil had
adhered to international human rights standards the Aussie Government
has agreed to. "Blind Freddy can see that companies should not be
lending transport to armies that have a track record of human rights
violations," he said. "A lot of people might still be alive if Anvil
had not, by its own admission, assisted the army in a brutal
crackdown."


Furthermore, Anvil faces the prospect of a civil claim from
local victims, and the law firm considering taking on the case, Slater
& Gordon (S&G), has also asked - on behalf of a number of NGOs
- the Australian Federal Police to look into the matter to ascertain
whether there are grounds for a criminal action. According to S&G
lawyer Richard Meeran, mounting a successful legal case against Anvil
would rest on the key factor of the company's awareness of how the DRC
army planned to handle the "small-scale" rebel uprising and the likely
outcome. "I think the company ought to have known, because it is a
matter of record of the reputation of the Congolese military in terms
of brutality," he contended. "It is important that companies that get
involved in this type of thing should be held to account."


Based on the UN investigation, the rebels surrendered without
resistance. And in the Kilwa carnage that followed unarmed civilians
and sympathisers were also killed. "Certainly primary responsibility
for what happened must rest with the Congolese military," Meeran added.
"But that does not in any way enable a company which is known to have
aided and abetted a military regime carrying out these kinds of
atrocities, and knew about the likely consequences of assistance, ... to
escape liability."


There seems to be a fine line between alleged culpability and
the rationalisation behind Anvil's exoneration of itself. "We were not
part of this. This was a military action conducted by the legitimate
army of the legitimate government of the country. We helped the
military get to Kilwa and then we were gone," Turner said during a TV
interview. "Whatever they did there, that is an internal issue, it ha
nothing to do with Anvil. It is an internal government issue. How they
handle that is up to them." Turner's retort of "so what" to the
perceived implications of Anvil's decision to give the DRC army access
to the mine's transport services and facilities has probably not cast
the most favourable light on Anvil's empathy rating.

Apart from the possible compensation payouts and convictions
that could arise from the Kilwa incident, Anvil has a lot more to lose
than AngloGold was it to pull out of the DRC as Dikulushi is currently
the Perth-based junior's main asset. Meantime, its shares continued to
tumble - another four percent by the close of trading Wednesday to
A$0.36.

AMP Section Name:Natural Resources
  • 116 Human Rights