When Steve finally gets some down time, he likes to take a no-holds-barred vacation. Nowhere is artisanal and small-scale gold-mining anchored more deeply into the history, economy and suffering of the Congolese people than it is in the Ituri District, the western section of Ortientale Province.
For three years, a succession of warlords battled each other for temporary control of the gold mines around Mongbwalu and Watsa.
Beginning in 2004, the UN and the Transitional Government of the Congo made a determined effort to bring peace to Ituri.
Eventually, the leaders of the most violent militias were sent off for prosecution at the ICC in The Hague, others were incarcerated in Kinshasa and international mining companies were invited back to restore the dilapidated operations.
At that point, OKIMO existed only as a terribly undermanaged entity, with its staff in Bunia thinking and operating as if they were independent of the company’s headquarters in Kinshasa During the post-war period, exploration agreements between OKIMO and international joint venture partners, such as Anglo Gold Ashanti and Motogold, were signed under less than transparent conditions.
A third international partner, Mwana Africa, obtained exploration rights.