Research

The service’s fields of study are essentially located in the DRC, in Bas-Congo, Katanga, the country’s east, and the Great Lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania). Outside of Central Africa, Saharan regions – particularly the Tuareg shield (central Sahara) – have also been the subject of research for many years now.

The service carries out different research projects whose goals are to:

  • Increase understanding on cratons (regions that have been stable for more than 500 million years), in particular in Central Africa and the Sahara, and mobile belts (regions that have never achieved geological stability) that surround them, focussing on the relationships and mutual interactions as well as the reactivations that have affected certain cratonic regions (metacratons), and which have often allowed the formation of large ore deposits through successive enrichments (see the two subsequent points). Special attention is paid to pegmatites – coarse-grained rocks with a granitic composition – from the Great Lakes region (east of the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi), which formed around 1 billion years ago and mineralised into tin (Sn), tantalum (Ta, ‘coltan’, see below), and tungsten (W).
  • Research the geological history of the Congo Basin, in particular the tectonic movements that structured this part of the earth’s crust over the last hundred million years. These movements led to major consequences, either on the formation of secondary ore deposits (oxidized,  supergene), often enriched in economic metals (e.g. Cu-Co in Katanga), or on the possible formation of deep oil reserves. Aside from the ‘resources’ aspect, this research contributes to understanding of how the basin was formed for the world’s second largest river by discharge.
  • In connection with the above, other work is carried out on the genesis of secondary, oxidized, ore deposits, brought into contact with the atmosphere during the Cenozoic uplift of the basin’s southern and eastern margins, related to the opening of the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, some thirty million years ago. Some of these deposits are world-class ones (particularly for copper and cobalt in Katanga.) The impact of mining activity on public health in the province of Katanga or in the Kivu region is also studied by the service.
  • Study the production, trade, and consumption patterns for African mineral resources and their implications on local development, and on the global and transnational minerals market. Special attention is given to the artisanal (and informal) mining sector in the Great Lakes region, the source of a quarter of the world’s supply of tantalum (used in the mini-capacitors of mobile phones) and a fraction (a few %) of the world’s gold. In a broader sense, the service also studies environmental governance in the DRC, that is, the set of governance measures related to the management of the natural environment: agriculture, forestry, mines, hydrocarbons.
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