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  In an interview with VOA, lead researcher Filip Hilgert said the map they produced then has been out of date for some time.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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid