News / Africa

Map Shows Gold is Top Conflict Mineral in Eastern Congo

FILE - Gold miners form a human chain while digging an open pit at the Chudja mine near the village of Kobu in northeastern Congo, Feb. 23, 2009.
FILE - Gold miners form a human chain while digging an open pit at the Chudja mine near the village of Kobu in northeastern Congo, Feb. 23, 2009.
Nick Long
Researchers have produced a new map of mining sites in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo showing which are sites are controlled by armed groups and which are controlled by the Congolese army.  Their findings suggest the number one conflict mineral from the region is now gold, which is harder to trace than the other minerals from the area. 

The research, carried out by a Belgian organization, the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), in partnership with the DRC registry of mines,  found armed groups are involved at about 200 out of the 800 mines they surveyed, while the army is involved at 265 mines. Furthermore, researchers say both the army and milities impose illegal taxes on miners.
 
IPIS carried out a similar survey in 2009.  In an interview with VOA, lead researcher Filip Hilgert said the map they produced then has been out of date for some time. Many of the miners have switched to digging for gold and the armed groups are profiting much more from gold than from the other so-called conflict minerals: tin, tungsten and tantalum, known as the "three T's."
 
One reason for this has been a hike in the gold price. Another factor, said Hilgert, has been the introduction of stricter international guidelines on sourcing minerals, including the anti-conflict minerals legislation passed by the U.S. Congress.
 
Those initiatives, he said, have had a big effect on the trade in the three T's, but not on the region’s gold trade.  That's because of gold’s higher value-to-weight ratio, said Judith Sargentini, a member of the European parliament who is campaigning for a European conflict minerals law.
 
"You do not smuggle a pack of tin because it is just too heavy and it is only worth it if you have plenty of it, whereas gold is like diamonds - it is easier, Sargentini said. "So I think it is much more difficult to certify, which shows again that certification is not necessarily the way forward."
 
Since 2006, the countries of the region have discussed certifying their exports of the four minerals, but very few certificates have been issued. In the meantime, most international buyers have boycotted three T's from the region, except for production from a few of the mines where each sack of minerals has a tag attached to it certifying it as conflict-free.
 
In the future it may be possible to trace production of the three T's using scientific methods. The German geological institute BGR (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe) has collected mineral samples from hundreds of mines in Rwanda that could be used to prove whether or not a consignment of minerals came from a conflict zone.  
 
But gold can be fairly easily melted, and once it is, tracing it by its physical properties becomes very difficult, according to BGR.  Sargentini suggests that geophysical tests are not a practical answer to conflict mineral problems.
 
"You cannot solve every trade in a commodity by trying to find out what the geological background of a material is," she said. "This shows that you need, first of all, a due diligence supply chain, and second of all, initiatives that lead to fair trade in gold."
 
As in knowing and having trust in your supplier.
 
The U.N. group of experts on Congo has documented links between gold buyers and armed groups in the region, but so far these buyers have not been sanctioned by the states where they operate.
 
The head of Rwanda’s mining association, Jean Marc Kalima, agrees with Sargentini that gold buyers should be more diligent, or else face sanctions.  Kalima said the gold trade could be better controlled by focusing on gold buyers.  The companies that buy gold in the region are few and well-known, he added, making it a matter of organizing buyers and sellers.
 
The Congolese government penalized some buyers last year, when it suspended the export licenses of  two Chinese companies amid allegations they dealt in conflict minerals, said John Kanyoni, a leading spokesman for mineral buyers in Congo.  Rwanda has also disciplined some traders, he said, urging other countries to do the same.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mike Chambers from: Arusha Tanzania
November 23, 2013 3:04 AM
A map detailing Artisanal Mining in the Eastern DRC should indeed be a useful tool. I congratulate the IPIS. I have read a few of the news reports commenting on this publication, including VOA's, and here I think we need some context. Apparently the survey data shows about 800 mines of which a quarter are involved with or illegally taxed by rebels, and a quarter by government troops. The reports seem to imply "Oh No! More than half the mines are beyond the pale" However the fairer perspective would from closer to the ground in the Congo itself where any businessman driving from his house to office in the capital can be expected to be "illegally taxed" by some kind of authority once a week. When looked at in this light the map data seems VERY good news and indicative of a major positive opportunity for business, and the associated compliances, to bring progress to the region. Thank you IPIS and for the rest of us let's be careful of the spin we put on such good works.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid