Congo has opened talks with mining companies over bridging a $200 million gap left by delayed Chinese funds meant to help revamp the country's dilapidated rail network, Congolese officials said.
Under the proposed plan, mining firms would recoup any cash they offered to repair the crippled rail network through reduced rates for shipment of copper and cobalt on the refurbished system, the officials added.
Democratic Republic of Congo is ramping up mining in its copper and cobalt-rich Katanga province but operations are hamstrung by poor power supplies and the fact that most shipments must go by road. Only a fraction of this year's forecast 500,000 tonnes of copper will be ferried by rail, according to Reuters.
Kinshasa launched a $600 million plan with the World Bank and China to revamp the railways in May, but state rail firm SNCC said it was having to look elsewhere for finance.
"There is a delay with the Chinese money," Marc Manyanga, commercial director of SNCC, told Reuters after briefing executives on the plan at a mining conference in Lubumbashi.
"The idea is that (the miners) should replace the Chinese money," he said. "This would be reimbursed through lower (freight) fees over a long period of time."
Manyanga said two meetings had already taken place between Congolese officials and mining companies but the talks had not yet led to anything concrete. Another meeting is due soon.
At its peak in the late 1970s, Katanga's railways ferried about 450,000 tonnes of copper a year. But some 700 km (400 miles) of rail needs to be replaced or repaired and, at the moment, most minerals are trucked south out of Congo.