CORRECTED-Congo govt to meet to implement new mining code

(Corrects Tuesday’s story to show that only government experts are meeting on Wednesday. Meetings with mining companies begin on Friday.)

KINSHASA, March 21 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo said it was convening government experts on Wednesday ahead of talks set to begin on Friday with mining companies about implementing a new mining code that hikes taxes and royalties.

President Joseph Kabila signed the new code, which replaces a predecessor from 2002, earlier this month despite strong objections from industry, which said it would scare off investment and violate existing agreements.

In a meeting before he signed the code, Kabila assured the companies their concerns would be discussed in the follow-up talks.

Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told reporters on Wednesday that the talks with major companies present in Congo, including Glencore, Randgold, China Molybdenum and Ivanhoe, would begin on Friday.

The miners say they expect the negotiations to focus on recognition of 10-year protections against changes to the fiscal and customs regime they enjoyed under the previous code but that were annulled by the new law.

However, officials in Congo, which is Africa’s top copper producer and mines more than half the world’s cobalt, have said that no compromises reached in the talks can contradict provisions in the code.

In a statement after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the government said it was “determined to defend national interests” in the talks. (Reporting By Amedee Mwarabu; Writing by Aaron Ross Editing by Gareth Jones)


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