News / Africa

DRC: Mined Metals Conflict-Free

A piece of malachite, a copper ore, is seen at the bottom of Congolese state mining company Gecamines' Kamfundwa open pit copper mine, Jan. 31, 2013.
A piece of malachite, a copper ore, is seen at the bottom of Congolese state mining company Gecamines' Kamfundwa open pit copper mine, Jan. 31, 2013.
Nick Long
Africa's Great Lakes region has gotten a reputation in recent years as a source of so-called conflict minerals - ore and extracted metals like tin and tantalum that are sold or taxed by rebel groups. But now the region's biggest producer, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is saying the problem is largely over and most of its production can be labelled conflict-free.

In case they don’t hear the cock crow, the citizens of Rubaya in North Kivu are awakened nearly every morning by the loudspeakers of this evangelist preacher.

It’s a mining town, where people like to get to work early, and these days they need to, if they are to scrape together a living.

Mining here is not industrialized. Instead, earth containing tin and tantalum ore is dug out of the hills with hoes and spades and then washed in muddy brown streams.
 
Jean Ngarukirifura, head of a team of diggers at Rubaya, said there are no armed groups or military involved in these mines, but still, demand for their product is low.  He said he doesn’t know why.
 
Demand for Rubaya’s product has been low since legislation was passed by the United States Congress that aimed to cut the link between Congo’s armed groups and the trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.
 
The Dodd Frank Act, passed in 2010, requires U.S. listed companies using those minerals to state whether they have come from the Congo, and if so, what steps have been taken to ensure they did not fund conflict.
 
Since the act was passed, the prices for the DRC’s tin and tantalum have fallen by more than half while world prices have held steady.
 
But some Congolese think the blow to its exports has been worth it because of the other effects of the act.
 
Prince Kihangi is head of the North Kivu Civil Society Association’s working group on mining. He said the number of armed groups in the province has gone down in the past two years because the Dodd Frank Act has cut their funding.
 
The North Kivu provincial minister for mines, Jean Ruyange Njongo, said the involvement of armed groups have declined so much that the bigger mines in North Kivu’s Walikale territory - where most of the province’s minerals are located - could now be certified as conflict-free.
 
He said, "Today you can go to Walikale and walk around those mining sites, and you will see there are practically no problems there of conflict or of armed groups."
 
The United Nations stabilization mission in the Congo, MONUSCO, confirmed to VOA that in recent months there has been little activity by armed groups in Walikale and the army has driven them out of the main mining areas.  
 
Prince Kihangi agreed with the minister that now is the time to relaunch mining in Walikale.
 
But international buyers will take some convincing. A spokesperson for the tin industry association ITRI, Kay Nimmo, said buyers are just not interested in North Kivu because they think there is still too much conflict there.
 
Fidel Bafilemba, a researcher with the pressure group the Enough Project - which campaigns on the conflict minerals issue - agreed with that analysis.

If ITRI is not active in North Kivu, he said, it is simply because of security issues.
 
Minister Ruyange said this is not logical, as ITRI is operating in South Kivu at a site closer to the M23, the most powerful rebel group in the Kivus.
 
He blamed the media for giving what he calls a false impression that North Kivu is overrun by armed groups.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs