Timber harvesting activities
According to ministerial order no. 84 of 29 October 2016 on conditions and rules for the production of lumber, the lumber logging regime includes two modes of production: industrial production and artisanal production (Art. 3).
Industrial production of lumber
Industrial lumber production is carried out by industrial companies under the terms of the forest concession contract and the forest management plan.
The creation of a concession is subject to a prior investigation as provided for in Article 84 of the 2002 Forest Code. The tendering procedure is regulated by decree no. 08/09 of 8 April 2008 establishing the procedure for the awarding of forest concessions. This procedure, which falls under the exclusive responsibility of the central level, is strictly applied for the attribution of logging concessions, which can under no circumstances be attributed by mutual agreement. Again, it should be noted that the logging concessions currently operating in the DRC are all the result of the former forest title conversion process.
For new attributions, the forest logging procedure involves a public enquiry prior to the creation of the forest concession, an attribution by auction, the signing of the forest concession contract and lastly, the actual concession operations.
In accordance with article 88 of the Forest Code, the forest concession contract consists of two parts, namely the contract itself which determines the parties' rights and obligations, and a specifications document which sets out the specific obligations incumbent on the forest concessionaire.
The concession's operations must be based on an approved forest management plan, broken down into a five-year management plan and an annual operating plan in accordance with articles 24 and 27 of ministerial order no. 034 of 3 July 2015, outlining the procedure for the elaboration, verification, approval, implementation and monitoring of the management plan for a timber production forest concession. Private forest operators can only have access to the resource by virtue of an appropriate authorisation (Art. 97 of the Forest Code). The procedure for obtaining an industrial logging permit is regulated by ministerial order no. 84/CAB/MIN/ECN-DD/CJ/RBM/2016 of 29 October 2016 on conditions and rules pertaining to lumber production. This permit, specifying the number of stalks and the estimated volume by species, and issued by the Minister in charge of forests, is valid for 1 year with the possibility of extending it for up to 2 years following a substantiated request.
In addition, this logging operation must be carried out in compliance with the standards outlined in the Operational Guides. These include the Management Guide from the timber production series, which establishes the management parameters guaranteeing the sustainability of the relevant resource in order to calculate the forest's maximum allowable output, and the Reduced Impact Logging Guide, which establishes felling standards. (DIAF, 2018).
Not only do management and harvesting standards need to be respected, the forest concessionaire is also required to comply with the environmental requirements contained in his/her environmental and social impact study or his/her environmental and social compliance plan in accordance with law no. 11/009 of July 9, 2011 on the fundamental principles of environmental protection, (articles 21 and 86) and its implementation measures.
Artisanal production of lumber
Unlike industrial logging, artisanal logging is carried out outside of a forest concession and falls under one of two categories: 1st and 2nd category. The first category is carried out by a natural person of Congolese nationality on a cutting area not exceeding 50 ha and using rudimentary equipment (machetes, axes, pit saws, heavy pullers). The second category is carried out by a natural person or a company governed by Congolese law over an area of between 100 and 500 ha using specific equipment. (art. 11, AM 84 of 2016).
In addition to the corporate statutes or RCCMs (documents proving the company is registered), both categories of operators enter the trade by obtaining a provincial licence in accordance with the relevant local regulations. Each category is required to build socio-economic infrastructures for the benefit of the local community bordering the forest.
Timber cutting is conditional on obtaining a permit for artisanal lumber cutting. The permit covering an area of 10 to 50 hectares allows the 1st category artisanal logger to harvest timber and the permit covering an area of 100 to 500 ha allows the 2nd category artisanal logger to harvest timber at an annual cut rate within the artisanal forest unit in accordance with the management plan. These two permits are issued by the province's Governor for a one-year period.
Regulations require both industrial and artisanal forest loggers to mark all trees that are felled or cut and to keep a site register. The provisions are contained in articles 66 to 70 of ministerial order no. 84/CAB/MIN/ECN-DD/CJ/RBM/2016 of 29 October 2016 on the conditions and rules pertaining to lumber production.
Stumps of harvested trees are hammer marked or painted according to regulatory requirements. Billets of timber and logs in forest yards must be marked according to the rules so that they can be easily traced. Markings required on logs and billets of timber are: the tree number, the log or billet number, the company stamp or hammer, number of the felling permit, record of the harvesting site of the tree. (Guide to legal documentation – WWF DRC).
Beginning in 2010, a new independent chain of custody system has been implemented in selected provinces in the DRC by the international verification company Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS). The system includes all best practice elements, including tamper-proof barcodes and computerized databases that allow reconciliation of timber volumes at different points in the supply chain. The chain of custody system (PCPCB) is tied to a new forest management information system also developed by SGS. While the system follows best practice, it has a number of fundamental flaws. The eastern provinces of the country were not covered by the system except only the western part of the country for all timber leaving through the port of Matadi. To date, the SGS system is at a standstill and is not operational. In any case, it is unclear how the new system can safely determine the legality of exports, since, according to IM-FLEG, the regulations governing the export of logs and sawnwood are not yet in place. It is also unclear how the new system can safely determine legality of exports anyway, since, according to the OI-FLEGT, the regulations governing the export of logs and sawn timber are still not complete.