Mining industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (abbreviated DR Congo or DRC), previously known as Zaire, is immensely rich in natural resources. However, mining activities have been closely linked to serious problems in the DRC. In September 2010, the government banned mining in the east of the country, attempting to crack down on illegal organisations and corruption.[1]

Contents

Natural Resources

Mine tailings at a Lubumbashi copper mine.

DR Congo is estimated to have $24 trillion (equivalent to the combined Gross Domestic Product of Europe and the United States) worth of untapped deposits of raw mineral ores, including the world’s largest reserves of cobalt and significant quantities of the world’s diamonds, gold and copper.[2][3] The major ores extracted throughout the DRC are:

Much of the resource extraction is done in small operations,[citation needed] known as "Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining" (ASM),[4] which are unregulated in the DRC.[5] Recently, more money is being invested into the extraction and refining of some of the ores found in the DRC, primarily copper and cobalt, which may help regulate the extraction and reduce environmental impacts. [6] However, many ASM operations still exist for minerals such as coltan that can be mined with little capital investment.[citation needed] ASM operations employ a significant number of DRC's population, with estimates of up to one fifth of the country or 12.5 million people.[5] Because artisenal mining operations require little capital they are unregulated and occur primarily within protected areas, around endangered or threatened species.[citation needed] Artisenal mining often occurs in riparian zones.[citation needed]

During periods of violence, resources have been looted from the original collectors by both Congolese and foreign soldiers, and civilians or they are extracted by soldiers, locals organized by military commanders (much of the time Rwandan and Ugandan commanders) and by foreign nationals.[7] Problems stemming from mining practices include disruption of families, mining-related illnesses, environmental damage, child-labor, and abuse of women including prostitution and rape.[8][9]

History

Mass Scale Looting

After Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi’s successful invasion of eastern and southeastern DRC a great deal of what the UN labeled “mass scale looting” started to take root.[10] While initial invasion tactics were still being worked out, military commanders were busy making business deals with foreign companies for the Congo’s vast mineral reserves.[7] Between September 1998 and August 1999 existing stockpiles of minerals, agricultural products, timber, and livestock were illegally confiscated from Congolese businesses, piled onto trucks, and sold as exports from the confiscating countries.[7] Rwandan and Ugandan troops forced local businesses to close their doors by raiding and harassing civilian owners. Cars were stolen to such an extent that Uganda showed a 25 percent increase in automobiles in 1999.[7] DARA-Forest Company illegally extracted and sold Congolese timber on the international market. An American Mineral Fields executive allowed rebels to use his private lear jet for a $1 billion mining deal.[11] Some parallel the mining corporations rush to acquire coltan rich land in rebel territory of the DRC to the Conference of Berlin in 1885.[11]

Active Extraction Phase

When the mass scale looting died down as stocks of minerals were depleted, soldiers were encouraged by commanders to take part in small-scale looting which started an “active extraction phase”.[10] Natural resources that were not stolen were often purchased with counterfeit Congolese francs which contributed to inflation. Air transportation companies that had operated in the Congo disappeared and were replaced by companies affiliated with foreign armies. The Congolese government lost out of profits from taxes on natural resources entering and leaving air fields because air services were controlled by foreign Rwandan and Ugandan troops who routinely exported coltan from the Congo. The increase in air transportation networks has also increased exploitation because of the emergence of new transport routes.[7]

Rwanda and Uganda have no known production sites for many of the minerals that were exported at vastly higher rates after their invasion of the DRC.[7] “Free zone areas” make diamonds difficult to track because they can be repackaged and “legally” sold as diamonds from that country.[12] The DRC has been exporting few minerals since the invasion because the destruction of the rural infrastructure has caused mining and agricultural outputs to wane.[7] Coltan is the most profitable mineral export from the Congo, but it is particularly difficult to track because it is often listed as cassiterite, a mineral of lesser quality, for which export taxes are lower. Coltan has been illegally extracted and sold via Burundi since 1995, three years before the invasion.[7] The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that Burundi has no “gold, diamonds, columbotantalite, copper, cobalt or basic metals” mining operations but has been exporting them since 1998.[13]

In the year 2000 Rwanda spent $70 million supporting about 25,000 troops and Uganda spent $110 million supporting twice as many troops.[7] Rwanda and Uganda finance their war efforts through commercial deals, profit-sharing with companies, and taxation among other things. Rwandan soldiers often steal coltan collected by villagers and sell it to diamond dealers themselves. From dealing in coltan trade alone the Rwandan army may have collected $20 million per month and coltan profits have been used to pay back loans from foreign creditors.[7] Rebel groups MLC, RCD-Goma, and RCD-ML make their own deals with foreign businessmen for cash and/or military equipment.[7] Battlefields are most commonly centered on areas that hold a lot of diamond and coltan potential and foreign armies occupation of the eastern region is maintained by illegal resource exploitation.[7]

For $1 million per month Rebel group RCD-Goma gave a coltan monopoly to SOMIGL which they in turn poured into efforts to gain control from RCD-ML for mineral-loaded land.[7] To try to get fast cash to gain control of government land the DRC gave a diamond monopoly to International Diamond Industries (IDI) which was supposed to pay the government $20 million but paid only $3 million and continued to extract diamonds from the region and sell them internationally.[7] Upon request of the IMF and WB the DRC is trying to liberalize diamond trade and IDI has threatened to sue because they had a contract they themselves did not honor.[7]

Corporations and Western countries purchasing coltan from Rwanda, Uganda, or Burundi are aware of its origin and aid from western donors is funneled directly into Rwandan and Ugandan war efforts. The German government even gave a loan to a private German citizen to build his coltan export business in the DRC, for which he enlisted the help of RCD-Goma soldiers.[7] Mineral plunder in the DRC was easy once the central authority had collapsed because of the extremely weak financial system, as well as the apparent disregard of illegal conflicts on the part of proper standards by international corporations and governments that imported illegal minerals.[7] The US has documented that many minerals are purchased from the DRC even though the DRC has no record of exporting them.[11] A lack of state stability combined with international corporations and foreign government’s interest in investing in Congolese mineral plunder increased the pace at which the DRC was shook off its fragile foundation. The UN does an excellent job of identifying the perpetrators of illegal resource exploitation in the DRC, but was not able to help prevent the economic exploitation of the country.[11]

In September 2010, it was reported that the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda), a group of mostly Hutu rebels, was exploiting timber, gold and coltan in North Kivu and South Kivu.[14]

Impacts of Natural Resource Extraction on the DRC

Environmental Impacts

Resource extraction has many impacts on the cultural and environmental diversity of the DRC; it is difficult to quantify the environmental degradation of the country. As it is unstable and difficult for researchers to enter and do work in the country also it is always difficult to quantify loss of biodiversity as animals are mobile and the lack of roads and navigable rivers make transportation into the wilderness areas difficult for researchers. [15][16]

Mining can be an intensive process and has affected some wilderness areas, including national parks and wildlife reserves such as Kahuzi-Biega and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, both of which are world heritage sites. Mining in these areas is typically artisanal; a small scale mining method that takes place in river beds and can, cumulatively, be very environmentally damaging. Artisanal mining degrades riparian zones, creating erosion and heavy silting of the water. The tailings are often dumped into the rivers and could be contaminated with mercury and cyanide degrading the health of the river systems putting the wildlife and people at risk.[17][18] Miners and refugees are relocating to parks in search of minerals; a reported 10,000 have moved into Kahuzi-Biega and 4,000 to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. This increases the pressures on wildlife as timber is cut down and used as fuel wood to cook with, and wildlife is killed for its meat. Also, as people enter into these areas animals such as primates are collected for trade on the black market. Others are poached for their hides, or for the tusks such as elephants.[15][16]

The extent of logging has been difficult to quantify. Much of the logging that occurs is primarily for target hardwood species, rather than clear-cutting which can be assessed by satellite imaging.[15] Observations have shown an increased number of logging trucks moving across borders. Logging destroys valuable habitat for animals and increases the access into forested areas making it easier for poachers, miners and refugees to access areas.[15]

Socio-cultural repercussions

There are many factors which contributed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s severe socio-economic hardships, and not all resource extraction operations have had an entirely negative impact on Congolese society at large. That said, the negative consequences brought about by some forms of resource extraction, such as coltan mining, are devastating. For example, worldwide, as demand for goods has increased, so has the demand for tantalum, or coltan (DCA 2006) and reportedly, “much of the finance sustaining the civil wars in Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is directly connected to Coltan profits” (DCA 2006, pp 1).

Within the DRC, there are both wars between Congolese and conflicts between neighboring nations. Although these wars have components of inter-tribal conflict, in several cases the conflicts have been induced by external forces, such as changes in international support and demands for resource extraction.[19] As a result of tantalum mining and wars, societies in the eastern regions of the Congo are experiencing heightened physical and economic insecurity[20][21], health problems and human-rights violations.

In the Ituri region, a violent conflict is occurring between the Lendu and the Hema tribes. Analysts have determined that the conflict has intertribal as well as economic components brought about by the patterns of coltan extraction.

A health problem brought about by resource extraction is the effect of tantalite (coltan) mining on women and children who work in the mines. As more women are turning to mining for income, they are faced with dangerous tasks such as pounding the stone which contains tantalum. The release of fibers that get into the lungs is affecting both the women and their babies, who are passengers on their mother’s backs.[22] “More worrying, the majority of babies, often on the backs of their mothers during the horrendous task of pounding coltan, have started showing similar signs of disease and pain to those of their mothers”.[22]

Child labour is common in DRC, and the mining industry is no exception.[23] Children in the region are also being forced and coerced to become soldiers.

The resulting labor shift from farming to mining has been linked to food shortages and insecurity.[21] The DRC has some of the richest soils and favorable climatic conditions for food production on the African continent. Before Mobutu’s reign, the DRC was one of the major exporters of food to the rest of Africa. “The richly fertile soil (especially that in the eastern highlands which is volcanic in origin) could produce enough food to feed half of Africa, but the country is so poor that at present its people do not produce enough food to feed themselves”. [24]

Environmental and Occupational Health

Civilian populations have suffered significant health impacts from mining and the associated conflicts. The exploitation of natural resources is directly related to the ongoing conflict in the region and subsequent humanitarian crises.[7][25][26] These health impacts come from labor, human rights violations, and collapse of social norms.

Health and safety standards are largely specified in Congolese law, but government agencies have not enforced them effectively. Because of this, there are many grave labor violations. Minimum wage laws are rarely followed at mines. Work week hour standards, overtime payment and rest periods are largely ignored as well. Child labor laws are rarely enforced. Child laborers make up to 30% of the mining labor force. Because of all of this, deaths and violent injury at mining work sites are common place. [27][28]

Civilians, including large numbers of children, have been regularly forced into labor, especially as miners and soldiers. Many miners become enslaved when they fail to pay back debt to their employer. [28]

Rebel and militia groups commit widespread human rights abuses, including rape, enslavement, torture, disappearances and killing of civilians. [29] These groups compete for finances from illegal mining.[30] Reports indicate that corporations have facilitated these abuses by obtaining minerals from areas controlled by these groups. [27]

Sexual violence is an especially widespread and devastating issue across the country. Between 1.69 and 1.80 million women reported being raped in their lifetime.[31] Around mines, survival prostitution, sex slavery, and forced child prostitution has been observed.[27] This widespread sexual violence contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well. [32]

During the Second Congo War, 3 million civilians died, largely attributed to malnutrition or disease. Nearly as many were internally displaced.[33] Destruction of agricultural land and cattle, and the draw of money through mining led to a decrease in food access and increase in malnutrition. [26][34]

Assessment and assistance by outside organizations has been difficult. Access to mining areas is limited by corrupt government officials and hostile militias. [26] Recently, reductions in mortality rate have been documented. This is linked to improvements in security, humanitarian and politic issues. [35] These improvements, however, are limited by continued unregulated mining. Exploitation of natural resources by rebel groups supplying international corporations continues to impair the growth of peace and stability.[11]

In the United States, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires retailers and manufacturers to track and publish the amount of conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A recent event, the exact regulations have not yet been determined.

References

Citations

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  2. ^ "Congo with $24 Trillion in Mineral Wealth BUT still Poor". News About Congo. 2009-03-15. http://www.newsaboutcongo.com/2009/03/congo-with-24-trillion-in-mineral-wealth-but-still-poor.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  3. ^ Morgan, M. J. (2009-02-01). "DR Congo's $24 trillion fortune.". African Business. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/DR+Congo's+$24+trillion+fortune.-a0193800184. 
  4. ^ Garrett, Nicholas (2007). "The Extractive Industries Trasparency Initiative (EITI) & Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM). Preliminary Observations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)" (PDF). Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. p. Glossary, Page 4. http://eitransparency.org/files/publication_file/NG_EITI_Report_22_10_Final.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-21. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b Garrett, Nicholas (2007). "The Extractive Industries Trasparency Initiative (EITI) & Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM). Preliminary Observations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)" (PDF). Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. p. Page 6. http://eitransparency.org/files/publication_file/NG_EITI_Report_22_10_Final.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-21. [dead link]
  6. ^ Parker, Darren (2008-11-07). "EIA report gets thumbs-up in DRC". Mining Weekly. http://www.miningweekly.com/article/eia-report-gets-thumbsup-in-drc-2008-11-07. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
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  8. ^ Hayes, Karen. "Women in Artisanal Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo" (PDF). Pact Congo. www.pactworldwide.org. http://www.pactworld.org/galleries/default-file/Women%20in%20Artisanal%20Mining%20in%20the%20DRC.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
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  13. ^ "Report of the panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo". United Nations. www.un.org. 2001-04-12. p. Page 22.. http://www.un.org/News/dh/latest/drcongo.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
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  15. ^ a b c d Hart, Terese; Mwinyhali, Robert (2001). "Armed Conflict and Biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo". Biodiversity Support Program. www.worldwildlife.org. http://www.worldwildlife.org/bsp/publications/search.cfm?pubno=143. 
  16. ^ a b Draulans, Dirk Van; Krunkelsven, Ellen (2002). "The impact of war on forest areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo". Oryx 36 (1): 35–40. doi:10.1017/S0030605302000066. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=96871. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  17. ^ Sheppard, David (2001-04-23). "Coltan Mining in World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo." (PDF). The World Conservation Union (IUCN). http://tierra.rediris.es/coltan/coltanenvir.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  18. ^ "Breaking New Ground: Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development - Final Report, Ch. 13" (PDF). International Institute for Environment and Development. 2002. http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/9084IIED.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  19. ^ Carayannis, Tatiana (2003). "The Complex Wars of the Congo: Towards a New Analytic Approach". Journal of Asian and African Studies 38 (2-3): 232–255. doi:10.1177/002190960303800206. http://jas.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/38/2-3/232. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  20. ^ (CAFOD), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (2007-01-03). Potentially rich but partially ruined.. United Nations Relief Web. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EGUA-6X4R3Y. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  21. ^ a b Jackson, Stephen (2002). "Making a killing: Criminality and coping in the Kivu War economy.". Review of African Political economy. (Routledge) 29 (93-94): 517–536. ISSN 1740-1720. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=a905425507~db=all~tab=jdb_table_of_contents_previous. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
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  23. ^ "Worst Forms of Child Labour - Congo, Dem. Rep.: Global March Against Child Labour". 2004-10-07. http://www.globalmarch.org/worstformsreport/world/congo-dem-rep.html. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
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  25. ^ Hayes, K; Burge, R (Winte2003). "Coltan Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How tantalum-using industries can commit to the reconstruction of the DRC". Fauna & Flora International (Cambridge, UK.: Fauna & Flora International.). 
  26. ^ a b c "No End in Sight: The human tragedy of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo". Oxfam GB. 2001. http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/no-end-in-sight-the-human-tragedy-of-the-conflict-in-the-democratic-republic-of-114040. Retrieved 11/4/11. 
  27. ^ a b c Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2011). "2010 Human Rights Report: Democratic Republic of the Congo". US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154340.htm. Retrieved 11/4/11. 
  28. ^ a b Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2008). "2007 Human Rights Report: Democratic Republic of the Congo". US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100475.htm. Retrieved 11/4/11. 
  29. ^ Peterman, A; Palermo, T & Bredenkamp, C (2011). [doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300070 "Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo"]. American Journal of Public Health (Washington, DC) 101: 1060–1067. doi:10.1353/sais.2002.0016. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300070. Retrieved 11/4/11. 
  30. ^ Hayes, K; Burge, R (Winte2003). "Coltan Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How tantalum-using industries can commit to the reconstruction of the DRC". Fauna & Flora International (Cambridge, UK.: Fauna & Flora International.). 
  31. ^ Peterman, A; Palermo, T & Bredenkamp, C (2011). [doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300070 "Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo"]. American Journal of Public Health (Washington, DC) 101: 1060–1067. doi:10.1353/sais.2002.0016. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300070. Retrieved 11/4/11. 
  32. ^ Klare, MT (2011). "Public Health Implications of Resource Wars". American Journal of Public Health (Washington, DC). 
  33. ^ Hayes, K; Burge, R (Winte2003). "Coltan Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How tantalum-using industries can commit to the reconstruction of the DRC". Fauna & Flora International (Cambridge, UK.: Fauna & Flora International.). 
  34. ^ Cox, TP (2011). "Farming the battlefield: the meaning of war, cattle and soil in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo". Disasters (Overseas Development Institute). doi:doi:10.1111/j.1467-7717.2011.01257.x. 
  35. ^ Coghlan, B; et al (2011). "Update on mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: results from a third nationwide survey". Disasters (Disaster Med Public Health Prep) 3 (2): 88–96. doi:doi:10.1111/j.1467-7717.2011.01257.x. 

General reading

External links

See also

  • Canadian mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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