Canadian companies criticized for mining operations in Congo

Canadian companies criticized for Congo operations, UN report says companies violate international conduct codes.

In a new report to the United Nations Security Council, a UN panel named five Canadian companies as being involved in the "mineral rape" of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The report says several companies have carried out transactions that "amount to a multi-billion dollar corporate theft of the country's mineral assets."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has seen the report and recommends it be brought to the attention of Security Council members.

The report blames the misery of people living in war-torn Congo on the actions of private armies and a web of unscrupulous corporations.

The UN panel named mining companies and criminal networks it believes are in violation of guidelines from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Five Canadian companies are included in the report.

One of the companies named, First Quantum Minerals, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, said it rejects the allegations and will seek a full retraction.

"The information contained within the report is factually incorrect and all allegations included or implied within the report are categorically refuted," a company release says.

A consultant for Banro Corporation, another Canadian company listed, said operating in the African nation is difficult.

"Corporate guidelines in an African context are a bit of a joke. It's hard enough getting people to obey the law, let alone corporate guidelines," said Harold Pohresky.

He said he supports the main thrust of the report, but that the rules and regulations are unclear.

An estimated two million people have died and widespread human rights abuses have occurred in Congo's four-year civil war.