© G. Kock 2009 

The Gold Mines of Kilo and Moto

Congo map

Gold deposits in the far north-eastern corner of the Belgian Congo, later Zaire, were discovered by prospectors in 1903 in the Ituri river. The first real mine opened on a small scale in 1904 around Kilo and in 1911 around Moto (a lesser site some 200 km from Kilo). These mines of various types were owned directly by the state. In 1919 (predecessor in 1911) the Belgian state entity Régie Industrielle des Mines de Kilo-Moto was created. A 3,000 kW hydro-electric power station replaced the locomobiles.

In contrast to the high grade vein-type deposits in the southern (Mongbwalu, Makala, Sincere and Adidi mines in Kilo) area, the economically important gold ores of the northern (Gorumbwa, Durba and Agbarabo mines in Moto) sector are impregnation deposits in schists. In addition gold was still extracted from alluvial deposits in river gravels. The Kilo-Moto goldfields are believed to be among the largest in Africa and it is estimated that more than 300 metric t of gold had been produced here by 30 June 1960, when the Congo became independent. The annual gold production of K-M was 65 p.c. of the colony's total.
Congo map
In 1966 (#66-419 15 July 1966, predecessor in 1962?) the Congo government-owned entity, L'Office des Mines d'Or de Kilo-Moto (OKIMO), was founded and became nominally in charge of these mining concession areas in the Orientale Province. In reality e.g. the Kilo-Moto goldfields were said to be president Joseph Mobutu's private. Some years after the independence the output declined severly. In Moto the richest deposits are now exhausted.

Ethnic conflicts, the civil wars and their various local war lords and the Ugandan occupation 1998–2003, all financed by embezzled gold, have until recent years prevented the use of modern and sustainable exploration and extraction techniques in the republic. Artisanal mining was also prevalent.

A 100 km car drive from Bunia, the main town of the Ituri district, to Kilo can take days. There are no railways near, so air transport is important. This enterprise would probably not have been profitable after 1960. The biggest and most famous mining company (copper) in the Belgian Congo, Union Minière du Haut Katanga, was also officially nationalised in 1966. [Also see: Agayo Bakonzi, The gold-mines of Kilo-Moto in northeastern Zaire 1905–1960, University of Wisconsin 1982.]

gold mine plant
Cyanidation plant for gold recovery.
(Both photos Kilo or Moto, mid 1950s.)

The Régie, with assets, was converted into a commercial company on 8 Feb. 1926 when the Société des Mines d'Or de Kilo-Moto SCRL (SOKIMO) was formed with Kilo as domicile. It had administrative headquarters in Brussels. The first and long-time CEO was Maj. Gen. George Moulaert. The Kilo-Moto concession area was 80,000 sq. km, which was more than twice the size of Belgium, extending to the frontiers with Sudan and Uganda. The concession was for 50 years and the Colony could revoke it after 21 years. In the 1950s the Company employed 19,000 local people, for which it also had to furnish community services.

In 1966, at the latest, this Congolese company was dissolved (in reality nationalised)***, but the successor OKIMO soon became nearly bankrupt. It had to sell operating consessions abroad in order to get income and mining know-how.

The Australian company Moto Goldmines Ltd (now Red Back Mining Inc, Canada), Kilo Gold Mines Ltd (registered in Canada) and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd (Johannesburg) has prospects in these goldfields. However, in the 1990s the central government itself added to the uncertainty by unilaterally cancelling some consessions in Zaire, citing "slow progress".

mine pit
Mine pit.

is maybe the most attractive of the inexpensive gold papers available to scripophily collectors. The size is 22x32 cm, excluding the coupons attached at right. Undated, but all Belgian pre-war valid stock certificates were replaced on dates after (Fr.: après) 6 October 1944* (full explanation). It is those post-war Kilo-Motos which we come across today.

They are: (i) 60,000 free bearer preferred shares (action privilégiée**, image)  in blue and black as certificates of 1 share at 500 Francs each, uncommon. (ii) An unknown number*** of bearer bonus shares (action de jouissance**, image) in green and black (also on blued paper) as certificates of 1 share at 500 Francs each, uncommon. (iii) 200,000 free ordinary shares (part social**) at 1,000 Francs each, not seen. (iv) 1,400,000 bearer beneficiary shares (part bénéficiaire**) without par value in crimson red and black as certificates of 1 share each (top), very common; and in brown and black as certificates of 5 shares each, less common.

In addition beneficiary ones of 1928 (or somewhat later, before 1938) in blue and black as certificates of 1 share and of 5 shares each without par value are known, rare. According to another source the different denominations and colours are: 5 blue, 10 green, 2 brown and 20 red.

When founded the Company's share capital – and it was not increased or changed later – was 230 million Belgian Francs, consisting** of the preferred shares and the ordinare shares. 40,000 of the preferred shares and all the ordinary and beneficiary shares were in 1926 issued to the government of the Belgian Congo in payment for the assets of the Régie. The remaining 20,000 preferred ones were initially subscribed in cash by several Belgian banks, including the Société Générale and the Banque de Bruxelles.

The preferred shares were to be replaced during 50 years by random draws and in accordance with the Company's profits by bonus shares one for one [A. of A.]. The colonial authority remained the main shareholder until after the country's independence***, so the Kilo-Moto Company was not really a private one like Union Minière was. (The latter was merged with Société Générale de Belgique in 1981.)


*Due to the Administrative Order (arrêté-loi) of 6 October 1944 concerning the listing etc. of Belgian and foreign securities. By September the entire country had been liberated.

**Action privilégiée (preferred share): 1 vote voting stock with a priority to a dividend. When redeemed, such a share was to be replaced in Kilo-Moto's case by an action de jouissance (bonus share), which also hade one vote each – in certain cases limited to the favour of the Colony. The part social (common or ordinary share) is frequently not publicly listed and a name share. It had two votes each. The part bénéficiaire (beneficiary share) was without face value and was not included in the Company's share capital (capital social), and had no voting rights. Different subtypes of the last exist: part de fondateur, part de dividende, part de réserve and also action de jouissance.
The actual rights of the classes vary according to the articles of association of each company. In Kilo-Moto's case the preferred shares were entitled to a modest fixed interest and the bonus shares to a modest fixed dividend. Roughly half of the profit remaining after certain allocations were distributed to each of the common and beneficiary share classes and this distribution applied to the assets of the Company in the event of liquidation too.

***Article 15 of the Convention signed in Brussels 6 Feb. 1965 (#7852, law 23 April 1965) regarding settlement of public debt and portfolio of the Belgian Congo: "Title to the securities constituting the portfolio of the Belgian Congo shall vest in [the Democratic Republic of] the Congo". All the securities are listed in the Convention's appendix and for the Kilo-Moto Company they are: 13,616 preference shares, 26,384 jouissance shares [together 40,000], 200,000 registered shares [= parts sociales] and 196,650 'management' shares [perhaps what was still unsold of the parts bénéficiaires/de fondateur; 1,203,350 such shares thus being in private hands].
So all shares, except the 20,000 preferred ones originally subscribed by the Belgian banks, seem to be accounted for. Scripophily dealers claim that shares of this Company were listed on the Brussels stock exchange (until the 1980s?), but I have been unable to verify that. Could it be that most of the aforementioned beneficiary shares had been publicly sold by the Colony? The Company's Articles of Association (abstract in French) did not allow for any change of the shares' grand total number. According to the original A. of A. the duration of the Company was until 1976, or earlier in case of repurchase of the assets by the Colony.

© G. Kock research 2009.
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