The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has already shed thousands of mining jobs this year after global commodity prices tumbled.
Last month, the country’s chamber of mines announced that the mining sector lost at least 3000 direct and 10,000 subcontractor jobs since commodity began to tumble last year.
The DRC, Africa’s largest coper producer, is heavily dependent on the mining sector, which accounts for 98 percent of export earnings together with its smaller oil industry.
Workers at a former industrial open mine site in Kolwezi are part of tens of thousands of miners who work in the mostly unregulated artisanal mining sector.
The workers have pitched tents at the bottom of a chasm and fill bags with rocks containing copper and cobalt to be sold to middlemen.
“We go to the market with a sack full of minerals, which weighs between 150 Kg and 160 Kg, but when we try to sell to the Chinese, they weigh it at 60 Kg, and we are forced to sell it at a lower value,” said a miner, Mwadi Tambwe.
The government scaled its 2015 growth estimate to 7.7 per cent from more than 10 percent because of low metals prices.
It expects growth to rebound to 9 percent this year, while the IMF predicts a 7.3 percent growth.
Provincial governor Richard Muyej complained that the profits from the business goes to other provinces, countries and continents.
“There is a lot of talk about the abundance of natural resources, but the reality is that people here live in poverty. So you have to wonder, who benefits from all these profits and where do they get these profits from?,” he added.
Some vendors said the decline in mining activity has led many to fear for their future.
“There have been a lot of changes in the whole city; there is no enthusiasm for business. There has been a disruption in the way we do business,” said one vendor, Mbayo Asuman.
Analysts warn that the mining sector could struck another blow, as a presidential election set for November is likely to be delayed and opponents of President Joseph Kabila have vowed to protests if he does not honour the constitution by stepping down at the end of the year.