Democratic Republic of Congo – Profile Part 3

A report by Global Witness in 2009 states that “in many parts of the provinces of North and South Kivu , armed groups and the Congolese national army control the trade in cassiterite (tin ore), gold, columbite-tantalite (coltan) wolframite (a source of tungsten) and other minerals. The unregulated nature of this of the mining sector in eastern DRC, combined with the breakdown of law and order and the devastation caused by war, has meant that these groups have had unrestricted access to these minerals and have been able to establish lucrative trading networks. The profits they make through this plunder enable some of the most violent groups to survive”.

coltan1Coltan – used in mobile phones and other electronic devices

All the main warring parties are involved in the mining of raw materials in the Kivu provinces. The plundering due to its massive rewards uses forced labour usually in extremely harsh and inhuman conditions. Two of the main groups involved in this practice are the predominantly Rwandan Hutu ‘Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda’ (FDLR) and Forces Armies de la Republique democratique du Congo (FARDC), the Congolese army. An example of FARDC’s activities can be seen in Bisie, a mine in North Kivu. Here FARDC collect a monthly commission of over $120,000. Bisie accounts for 80% of cassiterite exports in North Kivu. Minerals extracted by both the FDLR and the FARDC are flown out of FARDC controlled airports in South Kivu. The majority of the minerals are unaccounted for as a result of being smuggled out of the country. Almost 90% of gold exports are undeclared.

Other routes that exporters use pass through Rwanda and Burundi. The governments of these countries are complicit in allowing the minerals pass through their borders. The companies that operate in exporting them to international markets remained unaccountable for their actions. These include Groupe Olive, Muyeye, MDM, Panju and many others.

According to Global Witness’ report the companies that export the minerals do so to a large number of international companies. They include many European and Asian companies such as Thailand Smelting and Refining Corporation (THAISARCO), the world’s 5th largest tin producing company, owned by British metal giants Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC); British company Afrimex, and several Belgian companies such as Trademet and Traxys. These then sell the materials on to many processing and manufacturing companies which include firms in the electronics industry. These firms have no effective monitoring system which would allow them to assess their human rights impact of their trade. Although paying lip service to the problems little if anything is done to try and remedy the problem.

International responses to the economic aspect of the conflict have in fact acted as a hindrance to development efforts in the region. The conflict will continue to cause death, trauma, displacement and destruction of livelihoods on a mammoth scale all of which will continue to hinder any positive development. Donor governments continue to spend vast sums of financial aid in the Congo with the noble intention of helping but while the situation continues unabated their efforts will continue to prove futile. While the warring parties have access to raw materials and have avenues where they can illegally export and profiteer the situation will not change.

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