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  In an interview with VOA, lead researcher Filip Hilgert said the map they produced then has been out of date for some time.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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora