News / Africa

Could Industrial Mining Bring Jobs, Peace to Eastern Congo?

FILE - A Congolese mineral trader displays semi-precious tourmaline gem stones in a mud hut at Numbi in eastern Congo.
FILE - A Congolese mineral trader displays semi-precious tourmaline gem stones in a mud hut at Numbi in eastern Congo.
Nick Long
— Mining experts say warring parties in eastern Congo are missing the big picture. They say armed groups are fighting over surface-level mines and blocking access to billions of dollars in mineral deposits deeper underground. Could unlocking that potential be the key to sustainable peace?

Nearly all of the mines in eastern Congo’s Kivu provinces are still worked by small-scale or "artisanal" miners using picks and shovels, who, in many cases, are forced to pay illegal taxes to armed groups or to the army.

The minerals are mostly smuggled to neighboring countries to avoid Congo’s other taxes, and officials in those neighboring countries, as well as the Congolese army, have allegedly supported armed groups in order to keep this situation going.

Digging deeper

But there could be a win-win solution for both sides of the borders, says Sasha Lezhnev, of the Enough Project, a non-governmental organization that campaigns for responsible minerals trade.

"I think what has been discovered in the last few years, if you look at a mine like Bisie in Walikale for example, is in fact when geologists come and drill into the ground they discover hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars worth of deposits of these minerals," Lezhnev said. "And yet the Congolese government has not really opened up these mines as they have in other parts of the country to investors."

The mine at Bisie, where mining is still entirely artisanal, is an exceptionally rich deposit, and two years ago was reported to be producing most of the tin ore exported from eastern Congo. But a number of other sites, including several gold mines, could also be exploited industrially, and without funding rebel groups like the FDLR, Lezhnev suggests.

"Some of these areas are not really in conflict. Frankly, the FDLR has been pushed out of many of these mines, so it’s the army [in control]," he said. "So theoretically, the government should be able to say to the army, oh no, please go and do your business somewhere else."

Lezhnev says if the government could open up these mines to serious investors, neighboring countries could also benefit by providing services.

"So building on that I would say the key to unlocking peace is really to develop those mines in eastern Congo, and also in Rwanda and other areas of the region, by working closely with the private sector and NGOs to develop responsible minerals trade that actually works across borders," Lezhnev said.

A premature concept

How soon could this happen? A close observer of mining in the region, the Dutch lawmaker Judith Sargentini - who’s campaigning against conflict minerals - says industrial investment might be premature because of the impact on jobs.

"Yes, you could imagine that if things in eastern Congo calm down that in 20, 30 or 40 years you do indeed see a bigger industrialization of mining," she said. "But I do think you can organize it as well at the moment with artisanal mining, creating a lot of jobs, and I find that very important also for stabilizing the country."

So far, almost the only experience the Kivus have had with industrial mining has been with the company Banro. Congolese researcher Kamundala Byemba reported last year that out of 6,000-12,000 miners working in the Twangiza area where Banro drilled a pit, only 850 were offered jobs by the company and many of those jobs were temporary, while the others lost access to the mine.

The Banro foundation chairman, Martin Jones, disputes those figures.

He said, "That’s absolutely incorrect. There are many thousands of artisanal miners working at Twangiza but when we brought the south pit into production it was only a matter of finding work alternatives for 1,200-1,300 of them."

Banro says it directly employs 1,200 Congolese nationals, has offered as many as 2,000 other jobs in eastern Congo through labor hire companies and that its investment has indirectly created as many as 20,000 jobs in the wider economy.

It also says its charitable foundation has invested $4 million in social projects in eastern Congo, such as schools and training centers, and built or repaired 550 kilometers of roads.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid