"As a contractor with ten years of experience in the DRC, we have grown substantially especially thanks to the support of Barrick Gold and its CEO, Mark Bristow, who invested heavily in local development and entrusted us for successive projects."
Could you introduce IOB to our international audience?
IOB is a fully-owned Congolese company with a head office in Ituri, but operating across different regions, including Haute-Uélé next to our partner, the Kibali gold mine. We have sought to have a very dispersed presence in the country, and our long-term vision is to spin-off from the DRC into other countries too. As a contractor with ten years of experience in the DRC, we have grown substantially especially thanks to the support of Barrick Gold and its CEO, Mark Bristow, who invested heavily in local development and entrusted us for successive projects. At the Kibali mine, we worked in construction, minerals transport, haulage and, after three projects managed by foreign contractors, we were awarded a fourth project to build a hydropower plant worth US$50 million. We find ourselves very grateful for the trust we have been bestowed with and we are proud to complete these projects as a 100% local player.
How do you perceive the impact of mining in the country, and how does the IOB itself exercise its social license?
From the onset, IOB’s mission has been to participate in the socio-economic fabric of the country by reducing poverty, creating employment and having a direct impact on individual lives. During peak times, 2,500 people worked under IOB, in a country where employment opportunities are scarce. Another aspect is skills transfer: at IOB, we attained considerable know-how from expat companies, our engineers and the entire workforce being trained to a high standard, whereas such access to training is limited otherwise.
Could you share your views on how can the DRC better reap the benefits of mining?
It is well known that the DRC has a huge potential in the mining industry, but there is a gap in terms of the impact of mining at a social and community level, which risks straining the relationship with foreign miners and the opportunities the country brings. The local community exercises small scale mining and it may see the arrival of big mining companies as a threat. This is an area where the government could better intervene to protect local communities and ensure they reap the benefits of formal mining in the region. If this is not changed, investors encouraged by the government to come into the country may find that the community does not welcome them.
Could you share a final message?
IOB was created on the bedrock of a vision to grow fast and become a referential player with a big impact in the Congolese society by helping alleviate some of the issues the Congolese face. A main directive for the company, from its inception, was to absorb as much employment and reach out to as many people as possible. We understand that without a supporting community, we cannot grow, and one can see that everywhere we worked we enjoy the warmest community relations. Our social license is core to our business, and this is another aspect we have been greatly inspired by Kibali, which owns its success on the strong community ties it established.