Fighting between the Congolese army and a local militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has forced Banro Corp’s Namoya gold mine to suspend all operations and temporarily evacuate its staff, the company said.
Twenty-three trucks belonging to a contractor were caught in cross-fire between soldiers and a local self-defence militia – identified by the army as Mai-Mai Yakutumba – near the town of Lulimba, Banro said.
Local army spokesman Captain Dieudonne Kasereka told Reuters Mai-Mai Yakutumba fighters seized several towns from Congolese forces last week but the army mounted a counter-offensive to reclaim them. Ten militiamen and two army soldiers died in fighting since Sunday, he added.
The drivers of the trucks were all safe but the militiamen have not yet cleared the release of the trucks, Banro said.
Desire Sangare, a Banro vice president, told Reuters some workers returned to Namoya on Monday following Saturday’s halt to work and the remaining staff were expected back by Wednesday.
The fighting is the latest security episode to hit Banro operations in eastern Congo, home to dozens of militia groups that continue to prey on the local population and exploit its mineral resources since the 2003 end of a regional war that killed millions.
Militiamen kidnapped five Namoya workers – later released – in March and three police officers were killed in a raid on Banro’s Twangiza gold mine in a neighbouring province in February.