Keep gold miners out of gorilla country!

Gorilla Their lives are worth more than gold trinkets. (© CC BY 2.0)

Gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants – the biodiversity of Itombwe Nature Reserve in DR Congo is amazing. And it’s there – of all places – that Banro, a Canadian company, is planning a gold mine. We fear the worst for nature and local people, but Banro is deaf to criticism. It’s time to ratchet up the international pressure.

Call to action

To: Banro CEO Brett A. Richards

DRC’s Itombwe Nature Reserve is home to a crucial population of critically endangered gorillas. We call on you to abandon your gold mining project in Itombwe.

Read letter

For years, primates in the eastern Congo Basin have been retreating into a shrinking habitat. The growing human population is crowding into wilderness spaces and hunters are killing apes for the “bushmeat” trade. Protection measures are made difficult and dangerous by militias – which also deter wildlife enthusiasts who would otherwise provide a badly-needed source of revenue. The Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei ssp. Graueri), a subspecies of the eastern lowland gorilla, is on the brink of extinction.

And now, gold: as if the situation were not dire enough, Banro, a Canadian gold mining company, was discovered to be exploring the Itombwe Nature Reserve, one of the last retreats of Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Locals photographed the company's helicopters in June 2018 and informed the authorities.

Since the mid-1990s, Banro has secured mining concessions covering more than 2,600 square kilometers in the Congo and has been operating gold mines in Twangiza and Namoya for several years. Local people have complained of human rights violations such as land grabbing and evictions.

In 2014, Banro pledged not to encroach on the Itombwe Nature Reserve. That promise seems to be a thing of the past, however, now that the current government is prioritizing resource exploitation over conservation. In May 2018, President Joseph Kabila even opened Virunga and Salonga – two internationally renowned national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites – to oil and gas drilling.
 
Local environmentalists have sounded the alarm, protested against gold mining and drafted a declaration, but to no avail. They are now calling for international support. Please speak out for the protection of the gorillas – their fate matters to us all.
 
Tell Banro to abandon its plans for a gold mine in Itombwe.

Back­ground

Gorillas and Itombwe Nature Reserve

PLOS ONE: Catastrophic Decline of World's Largest Primate

ResearchGate: Establishing the Itombwe Natural Reserve: science, participatory consultations and zoning

ResearchGate: Priority Areas for Conservation in the Maiko, Tayna, Kahuzi Biega Landscape

ResearchGate: Grauer’s Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Human Rights Watch: The Curse of Gold

Further information on Banro

Finanznachrichten.de: Banro Corporation: Banro Corp. Appoints New Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

OECD Watch: Former employees vs Banro in the DRC

Mining Atlas: Twangiza gold mine

Mining Weekly: TSX, NYSE American to delist Banro equities

Mining Weekly: Banro temporarily suspends Namoya operations

Resource Projects: Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act Report: Banro

CISION: Banro Announces Effectiveness of its Recapitalization Plan and Intent to Terminate Registration under Securities Exchange Act of 1934 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

The African Business Journal: Banro Foundation Invests in Eastern Congo

Letter

To: Banro CEO Brett A. Richards

Dear Mr. Richards,

DRC’s Itombwe Nature Reserve is the habitat of a crucial population of critically endangered eastern lowland gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, forest elephants and many other species.

Banro is nevertheless going forward with plans to establish a gold mine in this ecologically highly important and fragile area.

If realized, this project has the potential to destroy the livelihoods of local communities and violate their human rights.

In view of these ecological and social risks, we kindly ask you to abandon your gold mining project in Itombwe Nature Reserve.

Do not endanger the survival of gorillas and other endangered animal species.

Yours faithfully,

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