Congo imposes travel ban on mining traceability director

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Dec 17 (Reuters) - The Congolese government has banned the head of the state mineral certification body from leaving the country as a fraud investigation is underway, the mines minister said on Thursday.

The department of internal security barred Pascal Nyembo, director-general of the “Centre d’Expertise, d’Evaluation, et de Certification des Substances Minerales Precieuses et Semi-precieuses” (CEEC), from exiting the country until further notice, in a Dec. 15 letter seen by Reuters.

The exit ban is due to an “investigation over alleged mining fraud”, Congo mines minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni told Reuters in a text message.

Nyembo did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.

The CEEC is a government agency meant to ensure minerals such as gold, which is often produced by “artisanal” miners using rudimentary means, are certified and traced from the mine site to the point of export.

Gold production in the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely underreported and tonnes of the precious metal are smuggled into global supply chains via its eastern neighbours, the United Nations Group of Experts on the Congo found in June.

At least 1.1 tonnes of gold were smuggled out of Congo’s Ituri province alone in 2019, the group reported. (Reporting by Helen Reid and Hereward Holland; Editing by Mike Collett-White)