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 In an interview with VOA, lead researcher Filip Hilgert said the map they produced then has been out of date for some time.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